NBA All-Star starters get an infusion of youth

Miami Heat forward LeBron James and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant led the voting for the NBA’s All-Star starters, announced by the league Thursday night.

Golden State point guard Stephen Curry, Indiana forward Paul George, Minnesota power forward Kevin Love and Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving are starters for the first time.

The game is Feb. 16 in the New Orleans Arena. No Pelicans were selected by the fans; the All-Star reserves will be announced next Thursday.

Curry, who was not selected last year during a season in which he set a record for 3-pointers made and led the Warriors to the playoffs, said there’s no doubt there’s starting to be a changing of the guard among the league’s top players.

“You have the Hall of Fame guys, the legends,” Curry said. “You have those guys still playing, but we’re trying to establish ourselves also. It’s a fun time for the NBA. You have guys all across the league who are trying to make names for themselves.”

James was the leading vote-getter. Joining him as Eastern Conference starters are Heat teammate Dwyane Wade, New York forward Carmelo Anthony, George and Irving.

Joining Durant on the West are Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who was selected for the 16th time; Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin; Curry; and Love.

Durant, the league’s leading scorer at 30.1 points per game, has been on a stretch this month in which he has averaged 36 points per game and has become the front-runner for MVP honors. James has won the award the past two years, and a rivalry appears to be peaking.

“(Durant) is probably trying to close the gap between he and LeBron,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “Like he’s always said, he’s tired of being No. 2. He’s just a phenomenal player.

“He’s hard to guard just because he can shoot from almost half court. He can post up. He’s added so much to his game. It’s pretty cool to see a guy who everybody ragged on when he came out (of college) because he couldn’t bench press 185 pounds, and now on any given night, he’s the best player in the league.”

Bryant is second in history in All-Star selections to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was picked 19 times. Bryant has played in only six games this season because of a knee injury and now a fractured fibula. He is expected to return early next month; if he can’t play, a replacement will be named by the league.

Curry was the leading vote-getter among guards. He moved past injured Clippers point guard Chris Paul on the third balloting announcement Jan. 9 and passed Bryant this week. Curry is the first Golden State player to start since Latrell Sprewell in 1995.

Love also surged late, passing Houston center Dwight Howard in the past few days. Love is second in the league in rebounding at 13.0 per game and fourth in scoring at 25.0. He is the first T-Wolves All-Star starter since Kevin Garnett in 2007.

The coaches submit their ballots for the All-Star reserves. Pelicans second-year power forward Anthony Davis merits consideration, Williams said, based on his 20.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and league-leading 3.0 shots per game.

Others who will be under strong considerations as reserves Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge, Houston guard James Harden, Pacers center Roy Hibbert and Warriors forward David Lee, who made the team last year.

Note: The All-Star Jam Session will host a Scavenger Hunt from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. The Pelicans’ Davis, Tyreke Evans and Austin Rivers will tweet clues and direct fans to local landmarks for a chance to win prizes and meet special guests. At the final destination, a Pelicans player will make a surprise appearance. Follow @AntDavis23, @TyrekeEvans and @AustinRivers25.