OKLAHOMA CITY — It’s not like the NBA’s All-Star teams entirely came into focus Thursday, because other than the top vote-getters in each conference, it’s unclear who will play for which team.
Nonetheless, the 10 starters are now clear, even as the makeup of each team, one captained by Western Conference top vote-getter and Los Angeles Laker LeBron James (3,770,807 votes) and the other by Eastern Conference top vote-getter and Milwaukee Buck Giannis Antetokounmpo (3,626,909), has yet to be chosen.
The Thunder will have one starter — Paul George (2,583,342) — who finished third in the voting among Western Conference frontcourt players, behind James and Dallas rookie Luka Doncic.
If the fans had their way, the remaining Western Conference reps would have been Doncic, Minnesota’s Derrick Rose and Golden State’s Steph Curry. However, the fans only have 50 percent of the vote, the rest of it divided between players and media. Given the entire vote, James and George will be joined by Curry, Golden State teammate Kevin Durant and Houston’s James Harden.
From the Eastern Conference, the fans would have selected Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard, Philadlephia’s Joel Embiid, Boston’s Kyrie Irving and Miami’s Dwyane Wade to join Antetokounmpo . However, Wade was replaced by Charlotte’s Kemba Walker once the players’ and media’s choices were added.
From that list of starters and 14 reserves to be selected by the coaches on Jan. 31, James and Antetokounmpo will select their teams, playground style, by way of the captains’ draft, on Feb. 7.
Russell Westbrook received 2,090,432 votes, placing fourth among Western Conference backcourt players. Steven Adams received 1,483,223 votes, placing sixth among Western Conference frontcourt players. They can still join George at the All-Star Game if selected by the coaches.
• Rotationally speaking: Prior to the game, OKC coach Billy Donovan was asked to explain his thinking about the rotation he employed two nights earlier against Portland, when his substitution patterns made certain George or Westbrook was always on the court.
Donovan tried to make the case the move was opponent-centric.
“It was just something, I think, going in against Portland, that I thought would be effective and be good based on their rotations,” he said. “I think it had a lot to do with looking at the Portland game at their place the first time.”
Then, perhaps, Donovan hedged those comments with another thought.
“There’s going to be times, like I said, where we have to do different things, based on other teams or based on foul trouble or based on what would be best for us,” he said.
Thursday, interestingly, Donovan kept a similar rotation pattern going through the first three quarters, after which Oklahoma City led 98-82.
After both started the game, Dennis Schroder entered for George with 5:36 left in the first quarter. At the, 2:46 mark, George came in for Westbrook. Westbrook entered for George 9:26 before the half. George entered for Abdel Nader 6:55 before the half and the two played the rest of the half together.
• Abrines dressed: For the third straight game, Alex Abrines was active and in uniform. However, the Thunder forward who missed so many games for “personal reasons” did not play.
The Thunder have not announced Abrines' “personal reasons” to have been any particular type of issue. Prior to being out for personal reasons, he was out for “illness.”
• Whoops: Capping a 9-0 run for the Pelicans in the third quarter, Jrue Holiday canned a 3-pointer that brought New Orleans within 77-64, prompting an immediate timeout from Donovan.
As Donovan called timeout, the PA announcer exclaimed “Paul George for 3.”
It’s hard to bat 1.000.
Horning is senior sports columnist for The Norman Transcript, a CNHI News Service publication.