Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard among starters for Western Conference All-Star team

The reaction toward the Lakers’ two All-Star selections couldn’t have been different.

Kobe Bryant’s finishing as the NBA’s leading vote getter (1.6 million) sounded as routine as one of his game-winners. He’s led the league in scoring (XX) points per game and will appear in his 15th All-Star game Feb. 17 in Houston.

Dwight Howard’s ascension into the Western Conference as the fourth-leading vote getter (922,070) immediately sparked criticism among the TNT analysts.

“I don’t think Dwight Howard had an All-Star season this year,” TNT analyst Charles Barkley said on the air. “I always though Dwight was the best big man in the game, but he hasn’t played like that. Plus, I would penalize that because the Lakers aren’t winning.”

The Lakers (17-21) enter tonight’s game against the Miami Heat (25-12) on a two-game winning streak after losing six consecutive games. The Lakers all season have hovered around 11th place in the Western Conference.

Meanwhile’ Howard’s points (17.8) and rebounds (12.6) marks his lowest statistical output since his 2006-07 season in Orlando. Part of that at least reflects coming off of nine-month back surgery and playing alongside Bryant.

Those two will join the Clippers’ Blake Griffin and Chris Paul as well as Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant as the West starters. The Eastern Conference will feature Miami’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, New York’s Carmelo Anthony and Boston’s Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett.

Both Bryant, Garnett and Shaquille O’Neal are the only players to appear in 15 NBA All-Star games. Former Lakers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds the record for most All-Star appearances (19). Bryant has collected several All-Star records, including points (271) and MVPS (four, tied with Bob Petit).

NBA fans voted for the starters, while coaches will select the reserves. But Howard’s seventh all-star appearance is also somewhat surprising because NBA eliminated the center position in this year’s ballot. In theory, that could’ve helped more forwards earn a nod.

Possible Western Conference starters could’ve included San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, San Antonio’s Tony Parker and Houston’s James Harden.

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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