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James and Antetokounmpo highlight NBA all-star starters

Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic, of Slovenia, will be making his first appearance in the NBA all-star game on February 16 in Chicago © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP / TOM PENNINGTON

LOS ANGELES, United States, Jan 24LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo headline a star-studded group of starters for the 2020 NBA All-Star game that also includes second year European sensation Luka Doncic.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar James will captain the Western Conference team for the second consecutive season and Milwaukee Bucks reigning league MVP Antetokounmpo will once again take charge of the Eastern Conference side.

James and Antetokounmpo have the honour of choosing the sides for their respective conferences because they are the top two vote getters.

The two captains select the rosters for their own teams on February 6 from the pool of available players — regardless of conference — for the February 16 showcase in Chicago.

The polls closed with fan ballots counting for 50 percent, current NBA players having 25 percent say and a media panel having the other 25 percent say in selecting the 10 starters — two guards and three forwards from each conference.

Doncic is the fresh face in the starters list this season as the Slovenian standout joins Houston Rockets star James Harden in the West backcourt. Los Angeles Clippers forward and 2019 finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and Lakers forward Anthony Davis fill out the frontcourt.

“I remember all the years I would wake up in Europe at 3:00 am to watch the game and now I can be in it,” said Doncic. “I just have to keep working and getting better.”

Like Doncic, Atlanta Hawks Trae Young is a rising second-year star, who secured his first all-star selection.

Young will be joined in the East backcourt by Boston Celtics Kemba Walker.

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Antetokounmpo will be flanked by Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid and Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam, another first time all-star and starter, in the East frontcourt.

James, who has helped the Lakers to an NBA best record of 35-9 this season, held off a charge from Doncic as the top vote-getter by fans in the West.

James, with 6.27 million fan votes, and Greek superstar Antetokounmpo, with 5.90 million fan votes, led their respective conferences. Doncic had 6.11 million fan votes.

It marks the third straight year that James, averaging 25.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and an NBA-best 10.8 assists per game this season, has led all players in all-star votes.

The only players who have received more all-star selections than James are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19) and Kobe Bryant (18).

With his 16th start, James will top the mark he currently shares with Bryant.

Doncic and Young, who were traded for each other on draft day, will forever be linked together.

They finished 1-2 in rookie-of-the year voting last season and this season they are the only two players in the NBA to rank in the top five in both points and assists.

– Smooth transition –

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Doncic has made a smooth transition from playing in Europe to North America.

“In Europe everything is less. Less minutes, less scoring, less free throws. But my game is kind of the same,” he said on Thursday.

“I just try to play to my own rhythm and let the game come to me.”

Raptors Siakam, who won the Most Improved Player award last season, has been on a meteoric rise.

He teamed with Leonard to help Toronto win the 2019 NBA title. Despite losing Leonard to free agency, Siakam has the Raptors in first place again and they are playing just as well as last year’s team.

The all-star reserves will be announced on January 30.


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