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Jayson Tatum heading to fourth straight NBA All-Star Game, this time as a starter

BOSTON -- For the fourth straight year, Jayson Tatum is an NBA All-Star. He will once again start the exhibition, but this time around he earned that spot through the voting process.

On Thursday night, Tatum was announced as one of the five starters from the Eastern Conference for next month's exhibition in Utah. He started the game in each of the last two years, but did so as an injury replacement.

This time around, he earned that starting spot through fan voting (50 percent of the process), NBA players, and media members (25 percent each). He was one of three forwards from the East, along with Giannis Antetokounmpo (one of this year's team captains) and Kevin Durant. Kyrie Irving and Donovan Mitchell were the two guards named starters from the East. LeBron James was named the other captain, with Zion Williamson and Nikola Jokic getting the nods as Western Conference forwards. Steph Curry and Luka Doncic are the two starting guards out of the West.

Tatum getting the nod as a starter should come as now surprise, since he has been the best player on the best team in the NBA this season.

Entering Thursday night's game against the Knicks, Tatum is averaging 31 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game -- all career-highs. He's shooting 46.8 percent from the floor (his highest since his rookie season) and 35.3 percent from three-point range. He's already got 19 double-doubles, nearly matching his career-high of 22 from last season, plus a triple-double in a win over the Dallas Mavericks earlier this month.

So far this season, Tatum has scored 30 points or more 25 times in his 46 games, and gone over 40 points on six different occasions. Earlier this month, he scored a season-high 51 points in a win over the Charlotte Hornets.

Tatum played for Team Durant at last year's All-Star Game in Cleveland, and had eight points, five assists, and four rebounds in his 20 minutes. In 2021, he scored 21 points and dished out seven assists in just 17 minutes, again playing for Team Durant.

Tatum made his All-Star debut in 2019, and scored six points to go with three assists and three steals in 13 minutes for Team LeBron. He didn't make the team in his second NBA season, but Tatum was still part of the fun and won the Skills Challenge.

We won't know which team Tatum is a part of this year until the night of the game -- Sunday, Feb. 19 -- with the NBA holding the All-Star draft during a pregame ceremony. 

But it really doesn't matter which team he plays for. With four appearances in his six NBA seasons, Tatum has now become a fixture at the league's All-Star festivities. 

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