After hauling in more fan votes than any other Eastern Conference player in each of the first two returns of All-Star votes, Nets star Kevin Durant fell to second place while sitting with a sprained MCL in the third and final vote returns.
Milwaukee’s All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo moved ahead of Durant by 132,014 votes on Thursday. Lakers star LeBron James leads all players in All-Star voting, Nets star Kyrie Irving received the most fan votes among Eastern Conference guards, and Celtics star Jayson Tatum is third in the Eastern Conference frontcourt behind Antetokounmpo and Durant.
Fans account for 50% of the All-Star vote, with current NBA players and an NBA media panel comprising the other half. Voting ends Saturday at 11:59 PM, and both the All-Star captains and starters will be announced on TNT on Jan. 26.
Durant’s injury status, however, leaves All-Star weekend in question.
The Nets’ star forward suffered an MCL sprain in a Jan. 8 matchup against the Miami Heat, when Nic Claxton blocked Heat star Jimmy Butler on a drive to the rim. Butler landed and barreled into Durant’s right knee.
The Nets announced an MCL sprain in the knee shortly after. He is scheduled to be reevaluated on Jan. 22 and expected to be out for a month.
His injury timeline could stretch longer if the Nets play it cautious and sit him until after the Feb. 19 All-Star break. Also playing a role in the decision making are Brooklyn’s struggles with Durant out. They have lost their first three games in the wake of the star forward’s injury, though Irving missed one of those losses, and Ben Simmons missed another.
In his 15th NBA season, Durant is averaging 29.7 points per game. He is on pace to become the most efficient 30-point-per-game scorer in NBA history and is shooting just under 56% from the field, 38% from deep and 94% from the foul line.
Durant has also marched up the NBA’s all-time leading scorer’s list. While James is set to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar this season for most regular-season points in league history, Durant has cracked the Top 15 and could crack the Top 10 if he returns to the rotation in time. James, in fact, named Durant as a player who could someday surpass his scoring mark.
”KD comes up, the first thing that comes to mind for sure,” James said in a Jan. 10 sit down interview on ESPN’s SportsCenter. “His name is not ‘Easy Money’ and ‘Slim Reaper’ for no reason. He does it so effortlessly. His ability to shoot the three ball, shoot the mid-range, get to the paint, and also shoot 85-90 [percent] from the free throw line.
“Those are key ingredients, but most important is about being available on our floor.”
It remains unclear whether or not Durant will be available for the All-Star Game. The star hasn’t played in an All-Star Game since signing in Brooklyn due to a number of injuries.