The NBA announced changes to the All-Star Game that will scrap the traditional East vs. West format in favor of two captains who will select their teams from a pool of players selected to participate.
Twelve players from each conference will continue to take part in the game, but the player from each conference with the most fan votes will choose their teams from the remaining 22 players, regardless of whether they’re in the East or West. More details on the draft process are still to come, but fans, media and players will continue to vote for the 10 starters, and coaches will still pick the 14 reserves.
The new All-Star Game format will debut at Staples Center and be broadcast on TNT on Feb. 18. Additionally, the game will for the first time be played for charity, with each team selecting either a national organization or Los Angeles-area charity to be the recipient of donated funds.
“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,” Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul, also the players’ association president, said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to putting on an entertaining show in L.A.”
This past season, the NBA took 50 percent of the vote for All-Star starters away from the fans and split it equally between a media panel and the players. That resulted in a few minor controversies, with Zaza Pachulia ranking among the leading vote-getters from fans and players submitting nonsensical ballots replete with teammates and friends, but, for the most part, the new voting system worked.
As for the actual product, this year’s result was a high-scoring affair that bordered on the ridiculous, with players seemingly seeking more and more highlights and exerting less and less effort year over year. That led to a conversation between Paul and NBA commissioner Adam Silver this past February.
“Chris said, ‘We need to fix this,’” Silver said at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in March, via ESPN.com’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “There is kind of a groupthink notion out there that when you have general managers and coaches in essence saying, ‘Go easy, don’t forget this is just for fun.’
“I just think this is one where we just have to reset. Chris’ suggestion was let’s get back with maybe the same group we negotiated the collective bargaining — Michael Jordan on the owners’ side, Jeanie Buss, Wyc Grousbeck, James Jones, Kyle Korver and LeBron [James] and others — let’s all get back together and figure out a way to do this.”
Captains choosing sides, with a charitable donation on the line, is the result. The hope is that a playground style of picking teams will instill more competition. That could certainly be the case, with the game now potentially pitting LeBron James and Kevin Durant opposite each other. Now, imagine they respectively selected Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving with their top two picks. Game on.
Silver also suggested that the league would consider “crazy ideas,” including a half-court shot worth 10 points, even encouraging fans to email concepts to him. It is unclear if further changes are in order.
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