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Duncan takes Yao's place

LOS ANGELES, February 18- NBA Western Conference all-star coach Gregg Popovich says Yao Ming will be replaced by Tim Duncan as the starting centre in Sunday's all-star game at Staples Center arena.

Duncan, who plays for Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs, was chosen as a reserve and will be making his 12th straight all-star start.

China’s Yao was named as the starting West centre despite missing nearly all of this season because of an ankle injury.

Houston Rockets centre Yao picked up 1.14 million votes to easily beat out Los Angeles Lakers Andrew Bynum by more than 170,000 votes.

Yao was voted in as a starter for the eighth time in his career by NBA fans despite undergoing season-ending surgery in January.

The flawed vote came about because of a huge backing Yao received from China.

The NBA allows fans to vote for the starters in the all-star game but reserves are chosen by the coaches.

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