All-Star Update: Tim Duncan will start at center for the West

And they said Tim Duncan wasn’t a center. In what may very well be his final All-Star Game, the greatest power forward of all-time will start for the Western Conference at center to replace injured Yao Ming, as decided by Spurs/West coach Gregg Popovich.

I’ve already been over why Duncan deserves his All-Star spot despite his stats not being as good as LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph or Al Jefferson, and surely some will have a problem with Duncan starting over Pau Gasol or Kevin Love.

But you knew that if the choice was left to Pop, he was going to roll with the guy who has won him four NBA championships. Besides, it’s a nice gesture to one of the League’s all-time greats, and this makes it easier for TD to log his 5-8 minutes in the first quarter and call it a night. And if nobody had a problem with Michael Jordan being handed a starting job in 2003 when nobody was injured, or Cal Ripken Jr. being served a home-run pitch in his last All-Star Game, they shouldn’t have much issue with Duncan getting a gift.

If David Stern is allowing open questioning of the All-Star format to appear on NBA.com, he must be at least open to the idea of switching things up moving forward.

NBA.com writer Fran Blinebury’s column today addressed the dwindling sense of urgency and intensity plaguing the All-Star Game, and some players weigh in.

“At some point, you’ve got to do something to make it exciting again,” Jason Kidd says. “I know the whole event has gotten bigger and it’s become an entire weekend of things to see and do. But the main part is supposed to be the All-Star Game itself and I feel like we’ve lost some of the edge that comes when guys really care about who wins and who loses.”

Suggestions mentioned in the article are a USA vs. The World format, a stipulation where the winning conference gets homecourt advantage in the NBA Finals, or a winner-take-all $100,000 prize. Or, like myself and Dime’s Aron Phillips did a couple weeks ago, having an NBA All-Star Draft like it’s middle-school lunchtime all over again.

“You do that and you’re taking the game back to its roots, the way most of us grew up on the playground,” Kidd said. “In shirts and skins, it’s your guys against my guys, teams we picked or teams we brought to the game. There’s a lot of pride involved, a lot of ego. That’s what makes for the competition.”

Yeah, they’re still doing this. Team Texas will gun for its second straight Shooting Stars championship, with Dirk Nowitzki, Roneeka Hodges (WNBA’s San Antonio Silver Stars) and former Houston Rockets PG Kenny Smith charged with bringing home the gold. Pretty sure Dirk has a spot on his mantle already cleared out, right next to his league MVP trophy.

The defencing champs will compete against Team Los Angeles, made up of Pau Gasol (NBA All-Star), Tina Thompson (WNBA all-time leading scorer) and Rick Fox (camera whore); Team Atlanta, featuring Al Horford (NBA All-Star), Coco Miller (WNBA’s Atlanta Dream) and Steve Smith; and Team Chicago has Taj Gibson (2010 NBA All-Rookie Team), Catherine Kraayveld (WNBA’s Chicago Sky) and Steve Kerr.