Duncan gets 14th NBA All-Star nod; 2 Bulls chosen
By BRIAN MAHONEY
NEW YORK — Tim Duncan was selected to his 14th All-Star game, Spurs teammate Tony Parker is joining him, and the Chicago Bulls also had two reserves chosen Thursday for next month’s game in Houston.
Joakim Noah and Luol Deng were picked from the Bulls, who have stayed in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race despite the season-long absence of point guard Derrick Rose. Noah is one of five first-time All-Stars for the East, along with New York’s Tyson Chandler, Indiana’s Paul George, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, and Philadelphia’s Jrue Holiday.
Miami’s Chris Bosh, picked for his eighth All-Star team, rounded out the East squad.
West forwards David Lee (Golden State), LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland) and Zach Randolph (Memphis) all were picked for the second time. Houston’s James Harden was chosen for the first time and joins former Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook, headed to his third straight All-Star game.
Duncan wasn’t chosen last year for the first time in his career but has bounced back with a terrific season at age 36, averaging 17.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots, his best statistics since 2009-10.
The co-MVP of the 2000 All-Star game joined a group that includes Michael Jordan for fifth-most selections. Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, both voted to start, and Shaquille O’Neal all were picked 15 times. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the career leader as a 19-time All-Star.
The reserves were voted by the head coaches from each conference, who had to select two guards, three frontcourt players and two players regardless of position. They were not allowed to vote for players from their own teams.
With centers Chandler and Noah, East coaches passed on Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez, the leading scorer for a resurgent team that is right behind the Knicks for the Atlantic Division lead. Perennial All-Stars Deron Williams and Joe Johnson of the Nets also missed out, as did Boston’s Paul Pierce.
Lee gave the Warriors their first All-Star since Latrell Sprewell in 1997, but coach Mark Jackson and his team hoped for more. However, Stephen Curry wasn’t selected despite averaging 20.9 points. He’s the league’s eighth-leading scorer and the highest one who won’t be in Houston for the Feb. 17 showcase.
Lee called his selection “bittersweet” because Curry — the first person to send him a congratulatory text — wasn’t picked.
“In our practice facility, there’s that All-Star chart and it stops at ‘97 and there hasn’t been any since. So the whole team was really excited with the improved record this year and to get one or both of our guys on there,” Lee said. “I’m really excited to be the one that goes and represents our team. I wish Steph could be a part of it and maybe he’ll still be able to. I’m just very, very excited. It’s been a long time for the Bay Area fans. Not only to have an All-Star, but to be winning games.”
Voted as East starters by fan voting along with Garnett were Miami’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, New York’s Carmelo Anthony and Boston’s Rajon Rondo.
The West starting five is Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard of the Lakers, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, and Clippers teammates Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
The Clippers were hoping for a third All-Star, but sixth-man Jamal Crawford wasn’t picked.
Commissioner David Stern would choose the replacement if any players are injured.
Randolph leads the NBA with 27 double-doubles and becomes the first Grizzlies player with multiple selections.
“It is truly an honor to be named by the NBA’s coaches to the 2013 Western Conference All-Star team,” he said in a statement. “I am grateful for this opportunity and look forward to playing with the best players in the world.”
The leaders of the teams with the best winning percentage in their conference through games of Feb. 3 will be the coaches. Miami’s Erik Spoelstra has the inside track on the East spot, while San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and the Clippers’ Vinny Del Negro are battling for the West honor since Scott Brooks, whose Thunder have the league’s best record, is ineligible after coaching last year.
Irving, the reigning Rookie of the Year, and Holiday were rewarded for outstanding individual seasons even though their teams are well below .500. Irving is the Cavaliers’ first All-Star since James, the only other East player averaging at least 20 points and five assists.
“It’s one of the best days of my life,” Irving said Thursday night, shortly after also being honored as Cleveland’s professional athlete of the year award at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards. “It’s a big deal for me and it’s a big deal for the city of Cleveland to be picked as an All-Star for the first time. I’m turning 21 on March 23 and to be with those guys, to see those names on TV, that was truly a blessing.”
The 22-year-old Holiday, the youngest All-Star in franchise history, is averaging 19.0 points and 9.0 assists but feared the 76ers’ 17-25 mark would work against him.
“I thought so. I definitely thought so. I think anybody else probably would, too,” he said while watching a Philadelphia Flyers game. “We’re not getting on a winning streak or anything like that. I just tried to stay positive and not talk about it.”
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