Tim Duncan to start for Yao Ming in All-Star Game

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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.

DeMarcus Cousins showing progress in recovery from Achilles tear

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One should be careful of reading much into player workout videos. Much like your mother’s life on Facebook, it’s an idealized version with all the grime wiped away, you only see the best images, and everything looks better than it actually is.

That said, DeMarcus Cousins seems to be moving well, coming off a torn Achilles.

As good as he looks, the Warriors can and will be patient for Cousin’s return. They don’t need him to win a lot of regular season games, they need him in the playoffs, and I doubt we see him before Christmas. They will be patient, whether he wants to be or not.

But if Cousins is 90 percent of his pre-injury self… well, we knew the Warriors were going to be better this season.

LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard all worked out together at UCLA today

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The NBA rumor mill never stops, and all it takes is one photograph to send thousands to the trade machine to start working out deals they are convinced should happen.

A photograph like this one.

This was posted by Phil Handy, the former Cleveland assistant coach now in Toronto.

To answer your biggest question first, yes that is Cedi Osman on the left.

Oh, and Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kawhi Leonard in there, having all just worked out together.

Let this be a reminder of just how large Leonard’s hands are.

I could try to explain that the NBA’s elite players work out together some pretty much every summer, and that the UCLA run is constantly stacked. I could try to tell you this isn’t wildly out of the ordinary.

But that would take all the fun out of the speculation to come, so have at it. Try to figure out how many of those players were recruiting Osman for when he hits free agency.

Corey Maggette named Big3 MVP, Nancy Lieberman Coach of Year

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When you see Corey Maggette — even in a suit when he is at Staples Center to help do Clippers’ pregame/postgame analysis — your first thought is, “that man looks like he can still play.” The “gun show” is still something to behold.

Turns out, he can still play. Very well.

Maggette suited up in the Big3 this season (he was injured in his first game last weekend), is the captain that led Power to the championship game this Friday night, averaged 16.9 points (fourth in the league), 3.1 assists (fourth in the league), and for that was named league MVP on Tuesday. He earned the award for his leadership as much as his production, and with that he also was named the Big3’s Captain of the Year.

He just beat out David Hawkins of Tri-State for MVP, who averaged 16.8 points and 7.1 rebounds a game.

Power dominated the awards, with coach Nancy Lieberman winning Coach of the Year (in her first year with the league), and Chris “Birdman” Anderson won Defensive Player of the Year behind his 1.4 blocks per game and owning of the paint.

The “Too Hard to Gaurd” award went to Al Harrington, who led the Big3 averaging 18 points per game for Trilogy (last year’s champion). The man can still get buckets.

Biggest Trash Talker award went to Gary Payton of 3 Headed Monsters. We all should have seen that coming, but to win a trash talking award as a coach is still very impressive. He’s still got it.

4th Man of the Year went to Andre Emmet of 3’s Company. He has been the hottest player in the Big3 in recent weeks, averaging more than 20 points per game during the run, and if 3’s Company is going to upset Power in the championship game it will be because Emmet has another monster season.

The BIG Community Award went to Ricky Davis. Every Friday morning, in whatever city the Big3 was in that week, Davis (through the Ricky Davis Legacy Foundation) brought other players and coaches to visit homeless shelters and encampments throughout the city and deliver fresh produce and toiletries. It (along with the weekly youth programs the Big3 did weekly in each city) was a great bit of reaching out.

Just a reminder, the BIG3 championship night kicks off at 8 p.m. Friday night live on FOX, from Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. The championship game will see Power — led by Corey Maggette and Glen Big Baby Davis — taking on 3’s Company (led by Andre Emmett, the hottest player in the league right now) for the title.

Channing Frye says young Lakers may not ‘truly understand what it’s like to play with’ LeBron

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Channing Frye is in a unique position. He has played with LeBron James for years and helped bring a title to Cleveland with him. However, at the deadline he was sent to the rebuilding Lakers as part of the Larry Nance/Jordan Clarkson deal, so he also has played with Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and the rest of the young Lakers’ core.

Those experiences inform Frye’s opinions when Erik García Gundersen of the USA Today’s LeBron Wire asked him how smoothly LeBron would fit with the Lakers.

“I’ll tell you this: (the young Lakers are) arguably the most talented group in the NBA. And I mean talented in terms of experience, years playing in the Western Conference and they’re overall position.

I think the thing they’re going to come to and I think a lot of guys are going to have to deal with this. There’s who you expect to be and then who you are when you play with LeBron. It’s two different things. I don’t know if they truly understand what it’s like to play with him because there is no room for mistakes. Because in all actuality, he could do it himself. He could lead a team to 40 wins by himself. I think for all of them they’re going to have to have a reality check, not only them but the people around them. There’s going to say, not a growing period, but a humility.”

Chris Bosh, Kevin Love and a host of other guys would be very happy to explain just how much players need to adapt to playing with LeBron. The Lakers established a style of play and a pecking order last season, and this summer that got blown up. It’s not starting from scratch, but it’s going to be an adjustment — and it can’t take too long in an unforgiving Western Conference.

The other thing Frye notes: The Lakers now have a target on their back. Last season they were interesting, this season teams will circle this game on their schedule. The Lakers are going to get the other team’s best shot every night. LeBron is used to this, for Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and the rest it will again be an adjustment.

The Lakers are an interesting experiment this season. It’s a one-season thing, they will go hard at other stars next summer (or at the trade deadline) and the roster will get shaken up again next summer. That doesn’t make this season any easier on the Lakers, their players, or Luke Walton. LeBron’s too good to let it all come apart, but the Meme team’s dynamic will be fascinating.