By Cody Westerlund-
(CBS) Bulls center Pau Gasol has been voted an All-Star starter for the first time in his career.
Gasol will be joined by Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, Cavaliers forward LeBron James, Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and Wizards guard John Wall as the Eastern Conference starters in the Feb. 15 contest at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Fans picked the starters.
This will be Gasol’s fifth trip to the All-Star Game. His previous four berths came as a reserve in the Western Conference — once with the Grizzlies and three times with the Lakers. At 34 years old, Gasol is having one of the best seasons of his career, averaging 18.7 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks.
“He’s earned it,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I think he’s played at an extremely high level the entire season. He’s been strong on both sides of the ball. As I said, we’ve been short-handed the whole time, and he and Jimmy (Butler) have really stepped up and done a terrific job for us.”
Butler still have a chance to make the All-Star Game as a reserve, which the coaches will begin making this weekend. Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer will coach the East, while Golden State’s Steve Kerr will coach the West.
Gasol will match up with younger brother Marc in the All-Star Game, as the Grizzlies center is a Western Conference starter. Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, Clippers forward Blake Griffin, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Warriors guard Stephen Curry were voted in as the other starters in the West. Bryant has suffered a torn right rotator cuff, so his status is in doubt.