Houston Rockets guard James Harden will replace Kobe Bryant as a Western Conference All-Star starter, according to an unnamed source cited by Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.
35-year-old Bryant, who has made 15 previous appearances as an All-Star, was selected for the 2014 edition in New Orleans but is set to miss Sunday's game as he continues to recuperate from a fractured knee suffered against the Memphis Grizzlies in December.
With new NBA commissioner Adam Silver having selected hometown favourite Anthony Davis as an overall replacement for Bryant, Oklahoma City Thunder and West coach Scott Brooks has seemingly opted to select Harden into the starting lineup.
This will be Harden's second time as an All-Star, with 'The Beard' having made his bow last year as a West reserve in Orlando. Brooks obviously knows all about Harden's talents, having coached him for three years between 2009-12 prior to the trade which saw him move to Texas.
Harden, a former Arizona State Sun Devil and third overall pick of the 2009 draft, is having a typically strong season for Kevin McHale's Rockets, averaging 23.9 points 4.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists.
He should go into All-Star weekend positively brimming with confidence, with Houston having recently embarked upon a seven-game winning streak.
The 24-year-old was superb during Wednesday night's 113-112 victory over the Washington Wizards, making the game-winning shot and scoring 35 points as well as grabbing six rebounds and dishing out six assists.