The Indiana Pacers may have had their struggles in recent weeks, but as the team retools following a smash-mouth era that resulted in back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals trips, to be in the thick of the playoff race halfway through the season is due in a big part to the return to form Paul George. George stormed out of the gates in his first opening month since 2013, winning the Eastern Conference Player of the Month Award.
As a reward for his return to form, fans have voted Paul George as a starter for the NBA All-Star Game for the second time in three years. George is averaging 23.7 points per game and 7.4 rebounds in his first season back since suffering his gruesome leg injury in August 2014. George finished with 711,595 votes, finishing second among Eastern Conference frontcourt players behind only LeBron James (1,089,206).
George had this to say on his selection:
I want to thank fans worldwide and in particular Pacers' fans for voting me on the All-Star team as a starter. It's a great honor that I respectfully share with everyoen who helped me and believe in me after the injury. This is also a team honor that I share with my coaches and teammates.
George is just one of three Pacers to start an NBA All-Star game along with Reggie Miller and Jermaine O'Neal, and joins O'Neal as the only multiple starter. George is joined in the starting lineup by Carmelo Anthony in the front court, and Kyle Lowry and Dwyane Wade in the backcourt. Lowry benefited from a late voting push to earn his second consecutive starting spot for his home town Raptors.
In the West, Kobe Bryant was the leading vote getter (1,891,614) in his final All-Star appearance. He's joined by Stephen Curry, who was second overall (1,604,325) in addition to Oklahoma City Thunder teammates Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard makes his first All-Star start in his fifth season.
NBA All-Star Weekend will be held from February 12-14, 2016 in Toronto with the 65th NBA All-Star Game taking place on Sunday night.