Washington Bullets forward Bernard King finished third among Eastern Conference forwards in the balloting for the National Basketball All-Star Game in Charlotte, N.C., Feb. 10, but there is a distinct possibility he could be named a starter by game time.
Charles Barkley of the Philadelphia 76ers and Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics became automatic starters after receiving the most votes from the fans, but both are injured and regarded as questionable for game duty.
Barkley has missed five straight games after severely spraining his ankle against the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 11. Bird has been sidelined since Jan. 8 with a nerve-root problem in his back. Team doctors list both players' status as day-to-day.
Aside from the elected five starters on the East and West squads, coaches from each conference choose the remaining seven players to complete the rosters. Should Bird or Barkley be scratched for medical reasons, NBA commissioner David Stern would select his replacement.
However, it then would be up to Eastern Conference coach Chris Ford to determine who would start at forward in place of the injured player.
That King garnered the next-most votes and also ranks third among NBA scorers with a 29.9 average would make him a likely candidate.
The 6-foot-7 forward has been one of the most compelling stories of the season, returning to top form after a career-threatening knee injury as a New York Knick in March 1985 forced him to miss almost two complete seasons.
After scoring 52 points against the Denver Nuggets on Dec. 29, setting a Washington franchise record, King, 34, said being selected to the All-Star squad would climax his comeback.
He has been selected three times previously in his 13-year NBA career, first with the Golden State Warriors in 1982 and with New York in 1984 and 1985.
The top vote-getter in the Eastern Conference was guard Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls. San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson, a former Naval Academy All-American, received the most votes in the West.
The Eastern and Western conference All-Star starters, as voted by fans:
C -- Patrick Ewing, New York
F -- Charles Barkley, Philadelphia
F -- Larry Bird, Boston
G -- Michael Jordan, Chicago
G -- Isiah Thomas, Detroit
C -- David Robinson, San Antonio
F -- Karl Malone, Utah
F -- Chris Mullin, Golden State
G -- Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers
G -- Kevin Johnson, Phoenix