Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant appears headed toward his second straight start in the annual NBA All-Star Game, based on initial results of this year's fan balloting released Thursday.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Durant lead the Western Conference after the first balloting returns, while Orlando's Dwight Howard and Miami's LeBron James lead the Eastern Conference.
Bryant's 690,613 votes lead Western guards, while Durant's 633,538 votes lead forwards.
Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul is the next guard at 540,173 and former Oklahoma standout Blake Griffin of the Clippers is second to Durant among forwards with 394,264 votes. The Lakers' Andrew Bynum paces Western centers with 496,597 votes.
OKC's Russell Westbrook is fifth among the guards with 107,197 votes and Kendrick Perkins is sixth among the Western centers at 41,579.
This year's All-Star Game will be played Feb. 26 at Amway Center in Orlando at 7 p.m.
Scribbled on the locker room grease board inside New Orleans Arena on Wednesday night were the instructions "Recovery 11-1" and "No basketball!"
"Recovery 11-1" was the time of day OKC players were to receive medical treatment at the team's practice facility on Thursday to help recover from their grueling five games played in six nights, all of which were victories.
The exclamation mark at the end of "No basketball!" was a Thunder official's futile attempt to make sure players did not – repeat, did not – pick up a basketball in any way. The thought of this actually not occurring was laughable because OKC players habitually have done some kind of basketball work every off day so far this season.
Director of team operations Marc St. Yves playfully was asked if he was going to hide the basketballs so players couldn't find them. "Yeah, right," St. Yves responded. "All 72 of them?"
By 1 p.m. Thursday, six Thunder players had been spotted with ball in hand on the practice courts.
After a sluggish start that featured little defense and even less offense early in the first quarter against the New Orleans Hornets, the Thunder plodded its way back from a 10-point deficit and finally captured its first lead at the 8:08 mark of the second quarter.
"Our guys always seem to figure it out," said OKC coach Scott Brooks, who credited the second unit for stabilizing his team's defense. "That's why you need a team. You need a team to come in and come through for the whole crew. I thought the second quarter was a big part of our (95-85) win tonight."
THE BIG EASY
Durant finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and three assists against New Orleans, a team he often abuses.
Last season, Durant averaged 29.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists against the Hornets. Three seasons ago, he averaged 31.3 points, which included tying a career high with 47.