The center position in Sunday's NBA All-Star Game has gone the way of the phone book, lickable stamps and folding road maps — things we have no use for anymore.
The league eliminated the spot from the fans' ballot this season. Centers have been rolled into a new category called "front-court players," meaning they have been grouped with all the forwards.
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Besides, the traditional dinosaur centers are virtually extinct anyway. Better to elect a more deserving forward than name another center just to have a back-up like in the past.
The problem is that some center might get snubbed one day, lost in the pile of forwards unless coaches come to his rescue in naming the reserves. New Jersey's Brook Lopez has been terrific, but he wasn't in the game until Commissioner David Stern appointed him to take injured Boston PG Rajon Rondo's place on the East roster.
LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony figure to be chosen as front-court starters for another six or seven years, leaving only one more starting front-court spot to fill. It could get interesting if Philadelphia C Andrew Bynum ever gets healthy enough to be taken seriously on the ballot.
Grizzlies fans can make a case that the new format cost Memphis C Marc Gasol a trip to Houston.
Howard is a conventional throwback and was the league's most dominant big man — until he became a Laker. His coach, Mike D'Antoni, has said that pounding the ball into a center doesn't fit his offensive style.
Garnett has been a power forward with small-forward skills his entire career before moving to the middle. He was voted to a front-court spot by fans largely because there were few other choices (after Howard left the East and Bynum has yet to play).
Reflecting a movement to downsizing, Bosh also was moved from power forward to center for the Heat last season. He was named a starter at some position for Sunday's game, replacing Rondo in the lineup. (What did you expect Miami Heat/East coach Erik Spoelstra to do? Start Cleveland PG Kyrie Irving for Rondo and snub his own player?)
Any hand-wringing over the death of the position has been overblown, considering the East has four players listed as centers: Garnett, Lopez, Bosh and Chicago's Joakim Noah.
Howard is the West's only true center, but there's San Antonio's Tim Duncan, who has played center for the Spurs for years but is listed as a power forward. Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge and Golden State's David Lee play power forward for their teams and can pose as centers in an all-star game.
Oddly, the East's hybrid lineup of Garnett, Bosh, LeBron, Melo and D-Wade will consist of no true center and no true point guard while the West starts Howard and Clippers PG Chris Paul.
Don't blame J.J.
You have to wonder if this horrid season has made SG J.J. Redick think twice about staying in Orlando.
Redick knows this rebuild could get uglier next season and the pain could go on another couple years. He'll also turn 29 in June. His value is at an all-time high, and he can become a free agent after the season.
Redick can quietly tell the Magic he has decided to explore free agency and ask the club to trade him before the Feb. 21 deadline, preferably to a playoff-caliber team. Any team looking to acquire him probably would want to re-sign him longterm after giving up an asset, though.
Fans would be upset about losing Redick or if he pushed for an exit, but he shouldn't be reviled. Don't lump him in with Dwight. He's not a franchise player, and he isn't responsible for the Magic's current mess.
Attack of the dot, dot, dots
Magic C Nik Vucevic, voted to play in the rookie-sophomore all-star game, could also be a candidate for the most-improved player award. He has virtually doubled his output from last season, when he played for the 76ers. Vucevic's biggest obstacle in his bid has to do with other numbers: Those are 15 and 37, the Magic's unsightly record. ... Magic PF Andrew Nicholson was named to join Vucevic in the game, playing for the other side. For the past few weeks, the media-shy Nicholson, curiously, has been a man of many words. Maybe it was his agent, but somebody finally got through to the St. Bonnie physics major that he can't open endorsement doors by being a grump. … My guess is that if the Magic land one of the top five lottery picks they'll pass on selecting Kentucky C Nerlens Noel. Noel tore his ACL last week. GM Rob Hennigan already has taken a cautious approach, staying away from Bynum (knee) and Lopez (broken foot last season) in the Howard trade-scenarios and Jared Sullinger (back) in his first draft last June. Hard to see him taking a chance on Noel as he takes his first swing in a lottery.