Kobe Bryant won’t be playing in the 2014 NBA All-Star Game. This is something that we’ve known for a while now after a re-evaluation of his knee injury revealed that he would be out another three weeks at minimum, the All-Star break falling before the end of that three week period.
The league named Anthony Davis as Bryant’s replacement for the Western Conference leading into Sunday’s game, but it was up to the West’s head coach, Scott Brooks, to make the call as to which player would replace Kobe in the starting lineup, though you could pretty easily assume that it was going to be a guard.
According to a report from Yahoo! Sports’ Marc J. Spears, the Oklahoma City Thunder head coach has made his selection, naming Houston Rockets guard James Harden as the guy that will replace Bryant in the first five on the floor.
Harden is a deserving candidate for the job after having another productive season with the Rockets. In 45 appearances this season, Harden has put up 23.9 points, 5.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 44.6 percent from the floor, though his three-point percentage has trailed off to 32.9 percent and his defense is still questionable-at-best. With the addition of Dwight Howard to Houston, though, Harden and the Rockets have been rolling.
The interesting wrinkle in all of this, though, is the fact that Brooks and Harden are far from strangers. While Harden was with the Thunder from 2009-12 before being traded to Houston, Brooks was the head coach of OKC back then as well. You have to imagine that the familiarity between the two parties had at least some part in influencing Brooks’ decision on who would start. Even if that did have a hand in it, though, Brooks still made the right call.