Tim Duncan

Duncan, Garnett get restful All-Star Game. Harden not so much.


HOUSTON — Combined Kevin Durant and Tim Duncan had played in 26 All-Star Games before their planes even landed in Houston this weekend. Both veterans would have preferred a weekend off from the game this year.

Their coaches tried to accommodate.

Tim Duncan played 8:03 and Kevin Garnett 6:26. They made their appearance for the fans but both coaches knew the veterans needed their rest.

“I just told Erik (Spoelstra, Miami and Eastern Conference coach) it’s the young guy’s game. Give me a couple minutes and I was cool. He said alright,” Garnett said.

Garnett has said this will be his last All-Star game. We’ll see if that’s true (if you are in the league and selected the league doesn’t really let you just say no. But he has played less than 15 minutes total in the last two All-Star games combined.

The coaches were under no real pressure to play the veterans, but West coach Gregg Popovich was under pressure to play James Harden. The lone Rocket representative was in demand but also had a tweaked ankle.

“I talked to him ahead of time about his ankle and that sort of thing, and he felt it was no problem,” Popovich said after the game. “We tried to get him a little bit of extra time

Harden played 25 minutes and finished with 16 points on 6-of -13 shooting.

But he got a lot of run and hit some key shots. So everyone got what they wanted.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at NBA.com.

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.