San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan Getting Starting Nod in All-Star Game Is Bad Joke

Stephen PattersonCorrespondent IFebruary 19, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 17: Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs watches from the bench as teammates take on the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on February 17, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The simple fact that Tim Duncan was even selected to play in the 60th NBA All-Star Game this Sunday over the likes of Zach Randolph of the Memphis Grizzlies and LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trail Blazers is a joke.

The added fact that he has now been handed a starting spot in the game by his head coach Gregg Popovich, who is also the head coach of the West All-Star team, over four clearly more qualified players is an even worse joke.

Popovich felt his decision to choose Duncan to fill the void left by Yao Ming in the starting lineup, who was voted to be a starter by the fans despite having not played in a single game this season, was "appropriate" and "obvious." In a mind-boggling development, Pops also doesn't have any problem with his own decision.

Duncan's teammate Manu Ginobili said, "If there's anyone who deserves that spot, it's TD."

I've lost count of how many NBA analysts on ESPN and across the Internet have tried to justify Duncan's starting role with the fact that the Spurs have an NBA best 46-10 record heading into the break and someone from their squad should represent them as a starter.

If that is the case, why isn't one of their top three players representing San Antonio in the starting lineup? Why is their aging and declining, former best player getting the nod over four players that are clearly more qualified?

While the All-Star Game is supposed to be more of a fun and crowd-pleasing exhibition or practice than it is a serious game, it is also supposed to be an event for the fans and I can't imagine the fans paying to see this game want this for their money.

Duncan is averaging career lows in points (13.4) and rebounds (9.2) so far this season, yet he somehow managed to "earn" his 12th straight All-Star Game starting role, and his 13th appearance overall.

Popovich chose Duncan to start at center over Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers and Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, both of whom are obviously more popular amongst fans in the Los Angeles area.

Dirk Nowitzki of San Antonio's rival Dallas Mavericks and Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves were also snubbed by the Popovich's decision.

Griffin is one of the most popular players in the league this season and his 22.8 points and 12.6 rebounds per game this season are far superior to Duncan's stats.

The fact that Griffin is somewhere between 30 and 45 times more entertaining to watch than Duncan has ever been is another reason this decision shocks me.

The league has focused a large amount of their advertising for this weekend on Griffin and to start Duncan over him in the big game makes absolutely no sense after all of that.

Love would have also been an excellent choice considering he attended local UCLA during his one season in college and is still pretty popular in the area, not to mention the fact that he is a double-double machine, riding a streak of 42 consecutive double-doubles into the break.

While some experts are attributing Duncan's lower production and shrunken stat-lines to his reduction in minutes (28.7 per game) in an attempt by the Spurs to keep him fresh, I'm going to attribute the lower production to the fact that he is clearly getting older, losing a step (or three) and is no longer needed as a focal point of the offense.

Duncan is definitely a Hall of Fame caliber player and has deserved all 12 of his previous selections to the All-Star Game, but I don't think there is an argument that can be made that would convince me that he deserves to be a starter this season despite being fifth in the fan voting amongst the Western Conference forwards.

If David Stern and the league were concerned about putting the best product that they can on the floor in Los Angeles on Sunday night, Duncan would definitely be coming off the bench behind Griffin, Gasol, Love and Nowitzki as all four of those players are clearly more entertaining and more deserving of the starting spot and the extra minutes.