Parker gets All-Star nod, but not Duncan

By Jeff McDonald

NEW YORK — After 13 trips to the NBA All-Star Game, Spurs forward Tim Duncan has a pretty good idea of what an All-Star looks like.

In his mind, it looks a lot like Tony Parker.

“Easily,” Duncan said when asked if the Spurs point guard should make this year’s Western Conference squad. “There’s no doubt.”

Apparently, West coaches agreed.

When the NBA announced All-Star reserves Thursday night, Parker found his name on the list, an accomplishment that pushes him further into rarefied air in San Antonio.

The Feb. 26 game in Orlando, Fla., will mark Parker’s fourth All-Star appearance, making him one of only four Spurs players all-time to boast at least that many. Two of them (David Robinson and George Gervin) are in the Naismith Hall of Fame. The other (Duncan) one day will be.

“It will be a great reward for my team and the whole Spurs organization,” Parker said.

This time, however, Parker will be going alone.

Until now a death-and-taxes-style lock for the All-Star Game, Duncan was left off the West squad for the first time in his career.

His omission not only snaps a string of 13 consecutive All-Star appearances, it ends a streak of consecutive starts (12) that was the second-longest in NBA history. Only Boston great Bob Cousy (13) enjoyed a longer one.

Though Duncan’s numbers — 13.9 points and 8.3 rebounds in 27.6 minutes — are similar to last year’s, he appears to have been outpolled by Memphis’ Marc Gasol for the final big man spot.

By rule, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich could not vote for his own players while casting a ballot for the reserves, but offered Parker a heavy endorsement in recent weeks.

“Tony’s played All-Star basketball all year long,” Popovich said.

With star guard Manu Ginobili out with a broken hand since Jan. 2, Parker has lifted his game — and lifted the Spurs to the second-best record in the West (19-8).

Heading into Saturday’s game at New Jersey, Parker is averaging 18.9 points and a career-best 7.7 assists. Since the beginning of January, when Ginobili was hurt, he’s averaging 19.8 points and 7.9 assists.

Parker’s inclusion on the West team gives the Spurs a representative in 14 consecutive All-Star games. In Orlando, he will join a backcourt that includes starters Chris Paul (L.A. Clippers) and Kobe Bryant (L.A. Lakers) and reserves Steve Nash (Phoenix) and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City).

“We’ve needed Tony to be a scorer the whole time Manu’s been out,” Popovich said. “He scores, he assists, he’s been leading us out there. He’s been really special.”

Barring a setback, Ginobili is due back Saturday in New Jersey. Because of Parker, the Spurs were not only able to survive Ginobili’s absence, but thrive.

The Southwest Division-leading Spurs will carry an NBA-best six-game winning streak into New Jersey.

In the past 2 1/2 weeks, Parker turned in the top assist game of his career (17 at New Orleans) and two of his top-10 scoring nights (42 against Oklahoma City, 37 at Philadelphia).

The All-Star honor is one Parker openly courted and coveted in the past few weeks. He missed participating in last year’s game in Los Angeles, when Duncan and Ginobili played and Popovich and his staff coached.

“It would be great to go back,” Parker said a day before the announcement. “It would be nice after what happened last year. Everybody went, and I wanted to go.”

In the end, the Western Conference coaches gave Parker his golden ticket to Orlando. It will be a lonely trip, but a well-deserved one.

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