Suddenly the NBA All-Star Game is going to be more like the pickup game at the schoolyard.
And it just made an often tedious game far more interesting ... if the players go harder.
The NBA has announced significant changes to the All-Star Game, starting for the 2018 edition in Los Angeles next February. Team captains will choose the teams from the pool of selected players, and those teams will be playing for charities on the Sunday night showcase. The days of East vs. West are gone.
“I’m thrilled with what the players and the league have done to improve the All-Star Game, which has been a priority for all of us,” said NBPA President Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets. “We’re looking forward to putting on an entertaining show in L.A.”
Here’s how it will work:
• The pool of All-Star Game starters will be selected the same way, by a vote of the fans (50 percent), current players (25 percent), and select media members (25 percent). Voters will select the five starters — two guards, three frontcourt players — for each conference.
• The rest of the All-Star teams will again be selected by the coaches, again seven more players from each conference.
• The players who are the top vote-getter in each conference will be selected as the captains (last season that would have been LeBron James and Kevin Durant).
• The remaining eight starters will go into a “starters pool” and the captains will take turns choosing players. They are not bound by conference or anything else — this is like schoolyard pickup.
• The captains will then choose the rest of their teams from the “reserves pool” selected by the coaches, to round out the rosters of 12.
• Once chosen, each team will select a Los Angeles-area charity (this year, because that’s where the game is hosted) or national organization where donations will be used to support local efforts.
• The teams will still be coached by the coach of the team with the best record in each conference 14 days before the game (unless that coach did it the year before, then it goes to the coach of the team with the second-best record).
After the All-Star Game last February — which felt flat in a lot of ways because the players were just going through the motions and the defense was nonexistent — Chris Paul and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver started talking and brainstorming ways to make the annual game more interesting and entertaining. This is what they came up with.
And it works, to the extent that this is more interesting for fans.
I’m interested. There will be a lot of discussion of who should pick whom due to playing style and fit, plus you know we’re all going to read free agent moves into who players pick as teammates (even though we all know we shouldn’t).
Personally, I would have liked the league to go one step further — take the 24 best players, regardless of conference. Think about the imbalances in the conferences this season and who is going to be left off in the West or make it in the East, why not just choose the best players regardless of conference? It’s the next step for this effort.
Will players go harder in the game now? I don’t know. The charity aspect may provide a little motivation, but if you really want players to go hard, there needs to be a real incentive for them on the line — like lots of cash. Maybe there could be something else, but cash talks.
Still, this is better than a repeat of years past. It’s an attempt add some energy to the game.