Curry, James lead fan voting for NBA All-Star game

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (left frame) and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (right). (AP/Kelvin Kuo-USA Today Sports)
Updated 11 January 2018
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Curry, James lead fan voting for NBA All-Star game

LOS ANGELES: Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James and Golden State Warriors playmaker Stephen Curry are on course to be chosen as conference captains for next month’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles, voting results showed Thursday.
James and Curry lead the latest fan voting which accounts for 50 percent of the ballot to determine the 10 starters for the All-Star Game on February 18 at the Staples Center.
Current NBA players and a panel of basketball media make up the rest of the ballot, each accounting for 25 percent of the voting, which concludes on Monday.
In the second wave of fan returns, James polled 1,622,838 votes to edge ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo (1,480,954) in the Eastern Conference and overall.
James and Antetokounmpo are followed in the East frontcourt by the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid (784,287) and the New York Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis (640,928). The Boston Celtics’ Kyrie Irving is third in the conference and overall with 1,370,643 votes.
In the Western Conference, Curry has amassed 1,369,658 votes, taking him clear of teammate Kevin Durant with 1,326,059. The Houston Rockets’ James Harden has 978,540 votes and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook 791,332.
Under a revamped All-Star Game format, the two captains this year will choose their rosters from the pool of players voted in as starters and reserves.
The players polling the most outright votes in each conference will be selected as captains.


Morata misses out on Spain World Cup squad

Updated 21 May 2018
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Morata misses out on Spain World Cup squad

MADRID: Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata was left out of Spain’s World Cup squad, announced on Monday.
Morata paid the price for a disappointing debut season in the Premier League as Spain coach Julen Lopetegui picked Iago Aspas and Rodrigo Moreno up front, along with Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa.
“The decision is always difficult because of the talent of the players we have,” Lopetegui said.
“We have opted for three other players who had different assets and including four players up front was not something we wanted to do.”
Two more Chelsea players also missed out as Marcos Alonso and Cesc Fabregas were not included in the 23-man group.
Morata’s absence was the stand-out decision, however, even if it was not an entirely surprising one given the 25-year-old’s dramatic dip in form.
After scoring seven goals in his first seven games for Chelsea, a back injury seemed to affect his confidence. Morata has scored only three times in 22 games since the turn of the year.
“I’ve talked to the players I had to talk to,” Lopetegui said. “I’m not going to name anybody, but there are players who had to find out from me that they were not going to be on the list.”
In contrast, Aspas and Moreno have been in excellent form for Celta Vigo and Valencia respectively, with Aspas the top Spanish scorer in La Liga on 22 goals.
Costa is expected to start when Spain open up against Portugal in Group B on June 15 but Aspas, with his speed and direct running, remains an attractive option.
Alonso only made his debut in a friendly against Argentina in March and lost out to Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal. Fabregas fell behind Spain’s impressive wealth of options in midfield, which will include Sergio Busquets, Saul Niguez, Koke, Thiago Alcantara, Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Isco, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez.
Manchester United’s David de Gea was included as expected, along with fellow goalkeepers Pepe Reina and Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta did make it in, as did Monreal. Dani Carvajal, Alvaro Odriozola, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Nacho and Jordi Alba complete Spain’s group of defenders.
“I’ve had several doubts, making a list of 23 is very difficult,” Lopetegui said. “But we have decided this was the most balanced decision and the one we think will help us most at the World Cup.”