Basketball: No fan love for Westbrook

Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder complaining about a call during their game against the Golden State Warriors, on Jan 18, 2017.
Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder complaining about a call during their game against the Golden State Warriors, on Jan 18, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

Thunder guard, leading the NBA in points per game, will not start after losing popular vote

NEW YORK • The Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook, who is averaging a triple-double this season, was snubbed for a Western Conference starting spot in next month's National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star Game after voting results were announced on Thursday.

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, who led the Cleveland Cavaliers to last season's NBA title, were named to the Eastern Conference starting five while Golden State team-mates Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant were voted into the Western Conference opening line-up.

The 66th NBA All-Star Game will be played on Feb 19 at New Orleans. A new selection format took 50 per cent from fan votes, which concluded on Monday, and 25 per cent each from player and media ballots.

Out of more than 38 million fan votes - a 146 per cent increase over last year - James was the overall winner with 1.89 million votes. Curry had 1.84 million, Durant 1.77 million and Irving 1.69 million.

Thunder guard Westbrook leads the NBA with 30.6 points a game, ranks second with 10.4 assists a game and pulls down 10.6 rebounds a contest. If he keeps up this pace, he could become only the second player to average a triple-double for an entire campaign after Oscar Robertson in the 1961-62 season.

However, the West starting backcourt will be Warriors' sharpshooter Curry and the Houston Rockets' James Harden, who ranks second in the scoring charts with 28.9 points a game and leads the NBA with 11.6 assists a game.

Westbrook was level with Curry and Harden in the weighted point totals but lost out based on fan ballot totals that served as the tie-breaker. Curry and Harden, with 1.77 million, were more popular with fans than Westbrook, who has 1.57 million.

"Dude averaging a triple-double and not starting in the All-Star game is wild," tweeted Memphis Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons, in response to the result.

Others were just as surprised. Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers called it "fake news" and said he could not understand why the fans did not vote the way the players and media did.

Joining Westbrook's former Thunder team-mate Durant in the starting West frontcourt will be San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard and New Orleans Pelicans centre Anthony Davis.

"It's going to feel amazing to be an ambassador for the city," Davis said. "I'm definitely going out to try and get MVP (Most Valuable Player), being here in New Orleans."

In the Eastern Conference, forward James and guard Irving will be joined by Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler and Milwaukee Bucks centre Giannis Antetokounmpo - the first Bucks All-Star starter since 1986.

James is the all-time top All-Star scorer with 291 points. He will make his 13th consecutive All-Star start in 14 NBA seasons.

All-Star reserve players, selected by NBA coaches and almost certain to include Westbrook, will be announced on Jan 26.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2017, with the headline 'No fan love for Westbrook'. Print Edition | Subscribe