Kobe Bryant may have played a mere two games in the 2013-14 season. He may have given himself an F in his debut since shattering his left Achilles tendon eight months ago. The Lakers (0-2) have gone since Bryant’s return as they try to integrate his commanding presence onto a roster full of castoffs.
But that’s not going to stop the legions of Laker fans both in Los Angeles and abroad to make Bryant among the top vote getters in the NBA’s All-Star ballot. The first returns released Thursday shows Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (607,407) and Bryant (501,215) leading the Western Conference in votes. Miami’s LeBron James leads both the Eastern Conference and the NBA overall with 609,336 votes.
Bryant has averaged 14.5 points on 40 percent shooting, 3.5 assists and 5.5 turnovers in 28.5 minutes through two games. A small sample size for sure. But those numbers pale in comparison among the leaders in the Western Conference backcourt in the Clippers’ Chris Paul (18.9 points on 45.2 percent shooting, 11.9 assists) and Golden State’s Stephen Curry (24.1 points on 46. percent shooting, 9 assists).
Still, it’s clear both the Lakers and the general public expect Bryant to shake off the rustiness pretty soon. The NBA All-Star game takes place Feb. 16 in New Orleans, still Bryant to polish his All-Star resume and ensure his 16th All-Star appearance is a deserving one. Should this hold up, Bryant will team up and get to rekindle fun memories of last season’s endless infighting with Houston’s Dwight Howard, who ranks second among Western Conference frontcourt players with 295,120 votes.
Pau Gasol ranks seventh among the Western Conference’s frontcourt players (133,119 votes), while Steve Nash ranks ninth among the Western Conference’s backcourt (60,782). It’s highly unlikely they will play in the All-Star game. Despite having an increased role stemmed from Howard’s departure, Gasol has averaged only 14.4 points on 41.7 percent shooting because of inconsistent aggressiveness and a variety of ailments, including a recently sprained right ankle. Nash has averaged only averaged 6.7 points on 26.1 percent shooting and 4.8 assists in six games. He has sat out the previous 13 games because of persisting nerve issues in his back.
Fans are allowed to vote once a day through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, text message, the NBA’s Game Time app and the league’s website until balloting ends Jan. 20. Tweets for specific players must include the full name along with the hastag #NBABallot.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at email@example.com