NEW YORK – LeBron James and Dwyane Wade of the Heat and Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo of the Celtics are on pace to be voted as starters for the NBA All-Star game.
Garnett and Rondo remained in second place at their positions behind the Heat duo in the third voting returns announced Thursday. Orlando center Dwight Howard is the other leader among Eastern Conference players and has the most votes of any player in the conference.
The Lakers' Kobe Bryant is the top overall vote-getter for the game in his home Staples Center on Feb. 20. The Hornets' Chris Paul at the other guard and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Denver's Carmelo Anthony at forward are the other West leaders, while Houston's Yao Ming has a sizable lead at center despite being out for the season with a foot injury.
Boosted by the huge online vote total he receives from fans in his native China, Yao was voted as a starter the first seven years of his career, from 2003-09. He was not on the ballot last season, when he was out for the year with an injury.
If an injured player is voted to start, Commissioner David Stern chooses an injury replacement for the roster and the conference's coach tabs a reserve to start.
Starters will be announced Jan. 27.