Monday, February 27, 2012

Three Simple Fixes for the NBA All Star "Game"

Way back in my high school days I was a quasi-intern for Glen Macnow at WIP and happened to be in the studio on an otherwise boring Tuesday night in July.

What made that particular night unique, however, was that the only thing worth a damn on TV was the MLB All Star Game.

In the midst of the only three calendar days completely devoid of any regulation games in the four major sports, Glen was experiencing a predictably slow night on the phones. So, in order to drum up callers and, eventually, the vibrant discussions and debates that define sports talk radio, he charged me with the task of devising ways to improve the All Star Game.

The fact that he liked my suggestion--to divide the stars not by league but by nationality, creating a Team USA vs. Team World scenario that had been successfully implemented in the NHL--is not important here, as I don't want to clog the blog by elucidating my greatness and creativity. What is relevant, however, is that I decided to put those same wheels into motion last night while suffering through the NBA All Star "Game," won by the West (I think) by an approximate score of 600-590.

Sure, the All Star game--and the litany of attractions and events that precede it--have become a spectacle for the fans, but is there anyone out there who thinks the game itself can't be improved?  Well color me optimistic.

In fact, here are three sure-to-never-be-considered ways, in ascending order of appeal and practicality, to do just that. Tell me that any of these wouldn't add at least a modicum of give-a-shit to the annual dunk-a-thon that has featured the same eight guys for a decade.

1. Do it the baseball way and give the winning conference home court advantage in the NBA Finals

As I alluded to, if such an asinine idea can actually be (and remain) accepted in one of our four major sports, why not incorporate it into another one?!?!

In all seriousness, however, the NBA stars (Kobe, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki, the entire Celtics roster) are just competitive enough that this might work.

I'll throw in a caveat, though, since the NBA decides for some ridiculous reason to switch to the 2-3-2 format for the 7-game Finals. Instead of guaranteeing home court advantage--which would entitle the team to host Games 1, 2, 6 and 7--the winning team would have the option of hosting the middle three games instead.

Now, you're probably wondering why anyone would be so foolish as to choose three home games over four. And you have a point. But consider, it is usally easier to win Game 1 or 2 on the road as opposed to Game 6 or 7. And if you get one, or possibly both, then you have afforded yourself the opportunity to win the series at home in convincing fashion.

Personally, I'd prefer the traditional strategy of having the majority of my games at home, but it's worth a thought for the cadre of out-of-the-box coaches permeating the Association.

Let's also consider for a moment the possibility of D-Wade staring daggers at LeBron as they walk onto the floor for Game 7 in Los Angeles or Oklahoma City mere months after LeBron's All Star Game-ending turnover. That can't not be awesome.

2. The Black Guys vs. The Not Black Guys

I know what you're thinking. A) I'm racist and B) this wouldn't even be close.

I'll leave A alone, since you're entitled to your opinion. But as for B, here are the 12-man rosters, taken more or less objectively based on how these guys are playing right now.

Black Guys:

Guards - Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook
Forwards - LeBron James, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh, Paul Pierce
Centers - Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum
Coach - Doc Rivers

Not Black Guys:

Guards - Steve Nash, Ricky Rubio, Manu Ginobili, Jeremy Lin (you knew it was coming when I titled them the "Not Black Guys" instead of the more common "White Guys")
Forwards - Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love, Danilo Gallinari, Andrea Bargnani, David Lee
C - Marc Gasol, Spencer Hawes, Andrew Bogut
Coach: Scott Brooks

This matchup on paper seems a bit lopsided, I'll admit. To increase the drama and level of athleticism on the team that needs more athleticism, you could also open it up to players with one white parent (under that clause, the likes of Blake Griffin, Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan would subsequently be admitted, and having to contend both the Duncan/Parker/Ginobili and Rubio/Love sets of teammates wouldn't exactly be easy). But just for fairness sake, let's limit it to NBA players devoid of an Afro-American parent.

You can't argue that the NBGs are anywhere near as athletic as the BGs, what with their LeBrons and Kobes and Pauls and Durantulas, but boy can they shoot. As Dirk proved last summer, one great player who can flat out shoot can always beat a couple of not-as-great players who can't really shoot.

Take Dirk and sprinkle in the rebounding machines knowns as Kevin Love and Marc Gasol plus the razzle-dazzle of young Rubio and you have one heck of a matchup here. I wouldn't bet on them, but would it really be Lin-sane if the NBGs won in a classic? Especially one contested with the defensive indifference germane to All Star games in all sports?

Didn't think so.

1. Fantasy Draft

Taking a page out of the NHL's playbook--and a very good one, if I do say so myself--we'll keep the same All Star rosters but instead of the boring East-West matchup we'll nominate two captains and let them pick the squads, playground-style.

The captains would be decided as such: one member from the defending NBA champions (only applied, of course, if that team has an All Star in the following season) and one from the game's host city (only applied, of course, if that team is represented on the All Star roster). So for last night's game the captains would have been Dirk Nowitzki and Dwight Howard. Pretty fair, eh?

From then on, it's self-explanatory. Rock-paper-scissors for first pick and you draft. Not exactly rocket science, but imagine the potential subplots.

Who would get picked first? How about LAST? (Sorry, Roy Hibbert)

Would you pick your teammates? I mean, you'd probably have to since the All Star game is no reason to rock the team chemistry boat. But do you think someone like Kobe Bryant would give a damn if Andrew Bynum was his seventh pick? Me neither.

What would happen if teammates ended up on opposing rosters?

This could be awesome, especially for someone living in Miami amid the Heat "fans" and constant "LeBron's the best, bro" and "D-Wade's the best, bro" and "Bosh is real good, bro" chatter. For 20 All Star Game minutes, you could see James and Wade guard each other, and if one clearly outclassed the other, well, there's a manufactured storyline if I've ever seen one.

There you go. Three EASY fixes to make the All Star game more watchable. So simple even an intern could do it...


  1. US vs. the World would be a feasible (and awesome) match-up to see. The World team would have Steve Nash, Rubio, the Gasols, Gallinari, Tony Parker, Ginobili, Luol Deng, and Dirk Nowitzki. I'd love to see it played on a FIBA-regulation court to neutralize some of the US advantages and bring up some vestiges of Olympic basketball rivalries. PS beer and wings tomorrow night in West Philly. 5PM at Blarney Stone at 39th and Sansom for happy hour, 7PM at Cavanaugh's for wings down the street

  2. I have to admit I'd actually watch the game if it were black guys against non-black guys. Look for my upcoming post on all-star games.