The NBA All-Star Game is supposed to be an exhibition, and it’s expected to have a little playground in it as the best players in the world put on a show. However, it has become so uncompetitive — there is not even an attempt at playing defense unless it’s close in the final minutes — that the product is unwatchable.
That’s not just me saying it, or other people who suffered through watching it. Kyrie Irving said it after this year’s game.
“For me, I would love to play in a competitive game,” Irving said. “I know we play in competitive games in the summer, pickup games, but I think going forward, the All-Star experience will probably get a little harder in terms of defense going forward.”
At the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said players union president Chris Paul reached out to him about the same thing. Via Chris Herring of fivethiryeight.com and ESPN.
Silver seemed to be kidding about the 10-point shot, but the idea that the game needs to be spiced up has become fairly universal. Understand that All-Star Weekend is not about the basketball as much as it’s about the sponsors and the show, bringing in casual fans who want to watch John Legend sing, providing a good time for people who pay the league a lot of money as partners/sponsors. The basketball is secondary, but it’s gotten so bad people are taking notice.
Of course, the real challenge is what to do to spice it up. Guys aren’t going to risk injury for an exhibition.
“It would be good to possibly incentivize the guys somehow,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after coaching the winning side in the All-Star Game this year. “I don’t know if you can maybe get their charities involved or winner-take-all type thing, but I think it’s possible to play a lot harder without taking a charge. We know what silly is out there, if you’re undercutting guys, but it’s almost gone too far the other way where there’s just no resistance at all. I think there’s a happy medium in there somewhere.”
The 2018 All-Star Game is headed to Los Angeles next February. We’ll see what changes the league has in mind for the format.