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Stats-vs.-wins debate at center of Duncan's All-Star status

Posted Jan 31 2011 3:00PM

(AP) -- Tim Duncan's championship credentials will someday mandate a spot in the Hall of Fame.

"He's a pillar, one of the few pillars of this league,'' Houston's Shane Battier said.

One who is having a mediocre season statistically, the kind that would normally warrant a long weekend off next month.

Duncan barely cracks the top 20 in scoring among a stellar class of Western Conference forwards. So as coaches submit their ballots this week for All-Star reserves, they'll have to look elsewhere if they choose to consider Duncan for a 13th straight appearance.

Perhaps away from Blake Griffin's spectacular highlights. Away from Kevin Love's point-rebound totals that belong in a video game.

They will have to go directly to San Antonio's won-loss record.

Because at 40-7, it may be impossible to dismiss how much Duncan means to the Spurs -- even in a year when he seems to mean less than ever.

"I haven't looked at him specifically. ... Those guys are 37-4 or something,'' Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said last week. "You've got to take a strong look at that. That's meaningful, that Duncan is on a team that's winning every game. That's a big deal, and it should be.''

Coaches routinely favor players from winning teams when making their selections, and the Spurs have been even more dominant than in any of their four championship seasons with Duncan. So the West coaches likely believe San Antonio should have multiple All-Stars, just as their East counterparts did in recent years with teams that won so much, sending four Detroit Pistons in 2006 and two Boston reserves to join starter Kevin Garnett in 2008.

Manu Ginobili is the Spurs' best candidate, averaging 18.8 points. Tony Parker is next at 17.5 on 52 percent shooting, while Duncan's average of 13.6 points is third on the team and only 20th best among West forwards who have played at least 30 games, according to STATS LLC.

That's a career low, as are his 9.4 rebounds in only 29 minutes per game while the Spurs monitor the 14-year veteran's minutes. Still good for most players, those statistics look even punier next to the nightly double-doubles of Griffin and Love, players Duncan has to compete with, along with perhaps players such as Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge of Portland, the Lakers' Pau Gasol, or Zach Randolph of Memphis.

"It's an interesting situation, because you've got the three young guys, with Aldridge and Love and this kid, Griffin. They're all having great years,'' Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "And then you've got the old standbys. Tim Duncan, whose team is the best in the league, but they've cut his minutes back. How are the coaches are going to vote? I don't know. It's going to be an interesting situation. There's a lot of young blood and guys who are really playing like they deserve it.''

Duncan has been an All-Star 12 straight seasons, two shy of the all-time record, and made his 11th start last year. The fans went with Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony this year, but Duncan still has two possible routes to extend those totals.

The coaches must submit their votes to the league office by Tuesday afternoon, voting for two forwards, two guards, a center and two players regardless of position in their conference.

Duncan was listed on the fan ballot as a forward, mostly because of his longtime objection to being considered a center even though he mostly plays that position for the Spurs. But coaches are free to vote for him at either position, helping Duncan's candidacy.

Should his name not be called when reserves are announced Thursday night, he still could end up in Los Angeles if Commissioner David Stern tabs him as the injury replacement for Yao Ming, who was voted the starting center by fans.

"I think Tim's got a good shot. There's a lot of good players out there, in all seriousness,'' said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who will coach the West.

"We wouldn't be in the position we're in, record-wise, if Timmy wasn't out there doing what he does night after night, and his consistency. So when I look across the board, I would hope he makes the All-Star team.''

Popovich can't vote for his own players and doesn't believe in lobbying coaches on behalf of players - not that Duncan would want the help.

"I'm not thinking about that right now,'' he said. "I don't have an opinion on whether I'm making the All-Star team or not.''

A respected veteran, Duncan's reputation could be a tiebreaker for coaches who can't decide between individual production or team success. Those weighing stats more heavily would agree with Charles Barkley, who left Duncan off his list of reserves after the starters were announced last Thursday on TNT.

While not talking specifically about Duncan, Barkley said: "This isn't a lifetime achievement award. The award should go to guys who are having the best first half of the season.''

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