It came down to Tim Duncan and Pau Gasol.
Gregg Popovich went with his guy, not the hometown guy. He went with the guy who has started the last 11 All-Star Games, not the guy playing better this season.
Tim Duncan will start at center for the West in the All-Star Game Sunday, replacing the injured Yao Ming, who was voted in by fans as the starter. Mostly fans in China, but that’s who they voted for. We’re not going down that road again. West coach Popovich got to choose the replacement, he went with Duncan.
Let us all briefly bask in the irony of the moment — for years Duncan and the Spurs have insisted that he be listed on the All-Star ballot as a forward, but when asked to pick a replacement center Popovich went to Duncan.
Wait, still basking.
Okay, moving on.
Duncan’s minutes, shot attempts, points per game and just about every other measure is down a little this season as the Spurs have switched the focus of the offense more to Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. But that just means Duncan has gone from insanely good to just dang good. Duncan is averaging 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, is shooting 48 percent and has a PER of 21.6.
Thing is, Gasol has been better this season. 18.1 points per game on 52.8 percent shooting, 10 rebounds a game, a PER of 23.7. Traditional stats, advanced stats, however you wish to break it down Gasol has had the better season. Right now he is the better player.
Then again, maybe Popovich watched the film of Gasol’s play against Cleveland, where he was already practicing All-Star Game level defense.
Most likely, Popovich just went with his guy.