ASSOCIATED PRESS – Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are teammates again. Gordon Hayward, DeAndre Jordan and Kemba Walker are about to get their first opportunity on the All-Star stage.
Meanwhile, Dwyane Wade’s run of 12 straight selections in the NBA’s midseason showcase is on the cusp of ending.
Westbrook — the NBA’s scoring leader and triple-double machine — was among 14 reserves selected by the league’s coaches for the All-Star Game that will be played in New Orleans on Feb. 19. The Oklahoma City guard and two-time reigning All-Star MVP entered Thursday averaging 30.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game, so his selection was likely an easy one.
“There’s no question in my mind that he should be starting,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said Thursday night. “However, I understand that there’s certain things that have to do with who does start. I’m not taking anything away from anybody who is starting, but … Russell, in my opinion, should be starting.”
Being picked reunites Westbrook in the Western Conference locker room with Durant, his former Thunder teammate who is now part of a record-tying feat for Golden State. The Warriors tied the league mark with four selections, with reserves Draymond Green and Klay Thompson joining two teammates announced as starters last week — Durant and Stephen Curry.
Other West reserves include Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, Memphis’ Marc Gasol and first-time selections Hayward of Utah and Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers.
“Bout time!!! Congrats big fella!!” Clippers guard Chris Paul tweeted to Jordan, who entered Thursday as the NBA’s rebounding leader, when the selections came out.
The Eastern Conference reserves are Indiana’s Paul George, Cleveland’s Kevin Love, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, Atlanta’s Paul Millsap, Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, Washington’s John Wall and Charlotte’s Walker, who is going for the first time.
George said the selection “means everything” to him.
“Hopefully I’m doing things the right way,” George said. “Hopefully I’m playing this game the right way.”
Wade would have been a starter under the old formula that takes only fan voting into account when choosing the opening five for each roster, but the Chicago guard not qualify in the revised system employed by the NBA now that also takes into account votes from players and a panel of basketball media.
Some, including West All-Star coach Steve Kerr of Golden State, said players made a “mockery” of the process by wasting votes.
“I just tried to keep it honest,” Wall said on TNT, which released the selections. “I looked at a lot of players and I go against talented players every night. I feel like guys who should be in the starting spot should get that pick. But I think it didn’t go the way everybody thought it would. Some players didn’t pick for the right people.”
Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid also would have started in the former system, yet like Wade were shut out of the selections.
“Once again the popular vote didn’t matter,” Embiid wrote on Twitter.
The East starters announced last week are Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Cleveland’s LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. West starters are Curry, Durant, Houston’s James Harden, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis of host New Orleans.