Kobe Bryant tops early All-Star voting

The Los Angeles Lakers are on their way to being well represented when the NBA All-Star game comes to Los Angeles in February.

The league released the first round of All-Star ballot returns Thursday and Lakers guard and 12-time All-Star Kobe Bryant was the overall leader with 722,682 votes. Lakers forward Pau Gasol was on pace to make his third straight All-Star appearance and fourth overall of his career; he was second in the Western Conference for forwards with 390,808 votes (Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant had 470,881).

Despite playing just two games so far since returning from knee surgery, Lakers center Andrew Bynum was second among West centers with 198,044 votes, trailing the Houston Rockets' Yao Ming (430,984). Also, Lamar Odom was seventh in the voting for West forwards (134,594) and Derek Fisher was 10th in the voting for West guards (81,088).

The Los Angeles Clippers, who are co-hosting the All-Star game with the Lakers, also had several players among the top vote-getters. Blake Griffin ranked sixth in West forwards (245,167), Chris Kaman ranked seventh in West centers (87,536) and Eric Gordon ranked eighth in West guards (113,510).

The Eastern Conference was led by the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard with 611,561 votes. He was followed at the center spot by the Boston Celtics' Shaquille O'Neal, a distant second with 241,782 votes. The Miami Heat's LeBron James, a two-time All-Star MVP (2006, 2008), lead all East forwards with 607,994 votes, followed by the Celtics' Kevin Garnett (456,111). The Heat's Dwyane Wade, last year's All-Star Game MVP, paced guards in the East with 570,489 votes; the Celtics' Rajon Rondo was second with 497,141.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.