Yao, Kobe lead Western Conference All-Star voting

NEW YORK -- A month off has not hurt Yao Ming's

The Houston Rockets center and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe
Bryant are the top two vote-getters after the third returns of
fan balloting for the 2006 NBA All-Star Game announced Thursday.

Fans from around the world can vote at games or through the
internet for starters for the 55th NBA All-Star Game, which will
be played in Houston on February 19.

The 7-6 Yao is the leading vote-getter with 1,759,574 votes. He
is a three-time All-Star averaging a career-high 19.5 points
and 9.1 rebounds but has been sidelined since December 19 after
undergoing surgery on his left big toe.

The NBA's leading scorer at 34.3 points per game, Bryant leads
all West guards with 1,653,770 votes. Reigning MVP Steve Nash
of the Phoenix Suns is second among Western Conference guards
with 1,332,848.

Yao's teammate, Tracy McGrady, is the top vote-getter among West
forwards with 1,421,456, followed by Tim Duncan of the San
Antonio Spurs with 1,071,115. McGrady also is sidelined with
back spasms.

Miami Heat center Shaquille O'Neal is the leader among Eastern
Conference players with 1,627,198 votes. LeBron James of the
Cleveland Cavaliers is the leader among East forwards with
1,598,649, followed by Jermaine O'Neal of the Indiana Pacers
with 931,671.

Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers leads East guards with
1,544,496 votes and Miami's Dwyane Wade is second with
1,112,792. Iverson was the 2005 All-Star Game MVP.