Fan voting for All-Star starters won’t conclude until Jan. 20, but we already have a pretty clear picture that shows which Lakers player will get voted in. Kobe Bryant, fair or unfair, is essentially a lock to be named a starting guard in the 2014 NBA All-Star game.
NBA.com released the first ballot returns on Dec. 12. The early results showed that Bryant was not only leading in the Western Conference backcourt with 501,215 votes, but that lofty number also placed him second in the conference behind only Kevin Durant and third in the entire NBA behind KD and LeBron James.
The Black Mamba missed the first 19 regular-season games of 2013-14 while recovering from a torn Achilles he suffered in April. In the six games he’s appeared in since his return, the Lakers have a 2-4 record and Bryant is averaging 13.8 points, 6.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 5.7 turnovers per game.
He’s shooting 42.5 percent from the field and 18.8 percent from three-point range. His player efficiency rating of 11.7 ranks him 223rd in the NBA, behind guys like Darius Morris, Vitor Faverani and teammate Wesley Johnson.
Those certainly are not All-Star-caliber numbers when compared with guys like Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, James Harden and Damian Lillard, who are all competing for a spot in the All-Star Game’s starting backcourt.
Unfortunately, the fan vote often becomes a popularity contest or a lifetime achievement award instead of rewarding the best players during a given campaign.
For instance, Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin received the fourth-most votes in the Western Conference backcourt according to the early returns. He's started just eight games for the Rockets and is averaging fewer assists and rebounds compared to last season and the season before.
Steve Nash—Bryant’s teammate who has also played just six games—got the ninth-most votes (60,782) of players in the Western Conference backcourt, nearly 5,000 more votes than Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers received.
Meanwhile, Gasol—the third Lakers player to appear on the ballot—received 133,199 votes. That not only ranked him seventh among Western Conference frontcourt players, it also put him ahead of LaMarcus Aldridge. The Trail Blazers' power forward is averaging 23.3 points and 11.1 rebounds for a 22-5 Portland team (second in the Western Conference standings). Gasol has posted averages of 14.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game while shooting a career-low 43.9 percent from the field.
The tandem of Gasol and Nash likely won’t garner enough fan support to be voted into the starting lineup for All-Star weekend (at which point the coaches vote in All-Star reserves). The same can’t be said for Bryant.
The 35-year-old shooting guard is a living legend and one of the best basketball players of all time, but he doesn’t deserve an All-Star nod from what we’ve seen so far this year.
As long as the votes keep piling in, however, Purple and Gold will have a representative present at All-Star weekend. That is, of course, if Bryant is even healthy enough to suit up.
The Los Angeles Lakers announced via Twitter that the knee injury Bryant suffered against the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday is far more serious than what was previously expected:
Bryant's odds of making it into the All-Star Game via fan vote are close to 100 percent. Whether or not he'll be healthy enough to play remains to be seen.