HANG TIME, Texas — So much for the Tim Duncan Rule.
With voting changed to designate players simply as frontcourt or backcourt, eliminating the center position, the All-Star Game‘s new balloting process was thought, by some, to reignite the chances of the Spurs’ former two-time MVP to return to the Western Conference lineup. Duncan’s streak of 12 consecutive All-Star Game appearances ended last season when Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin beat him out in the fan voting. The poll of head coaches did not add him as a reserve.
Yet when the first returns for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game arrived on Thursday, there was Duncan on the outside of the West starting lineup again, while the Lakers’ center Dwight Howard held down a firm spot in the middle, flanked by the young guns Durant and Griffin
Have the voters not bothered to notice that one of the main reasons the Spurs are off to an 18-5 start — the second-best record in the league — is because the 36-year-old Duncan is putting up the kind of numbers not seen since the last time he was an All-Star starter? While managing his minutes to just 30.5 per game, Duncan is averaging 17.9 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich spent time at each stop along the way of the Spurs’ recent six-game Eastern Conference road trip trying to drum up appreciation and votes for the linchpin of the Spurs’ four NBA titles.
So what happened? In short, the Lakers. The Lakers are always the Lakers, no matter how dismal their 9-13 record, how many times they change coaches midseason or how often they get spanked by the likes of the lowly Cavaliers.
Imagine, the most underachieving team in the NBA would — with Kobe Bryant and Howard — have as many All-Star starters as the defending champion Heat (LeBron James and Dwyane Wade) and more than the league-best Thunder (Durant), East-leading Knicks (Carmelo Anthony) or Duncan’s Spurs. Duncan’s teammate Tony Parker is seventh among Western Conference backcourt players, more than 200,000 votes behind the hype machine of Houston Jeremy Lin.
Not that missing all of the hullaballoo and activity of All-Star Weekend would be something that Duncan regrets. As a 16-year veteran, he knows the value of rest and appreciated having a midseason break to relax with his family last year.
“I will not be campaigning,” Duncan told Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News. “I haven’t heard what Pop’s been saying, but I guess I’ve got to talk to him.
“I wouldn’t complain if I’m not on the (All-Star) roster. I want to play well and want to feel good about what I’m doing on the court, but I am not going to be unhappy if I don’t make it.”
Tim Duncan, as always, has his own rules.