Despite a series of highlight-reel dunks and the usual parade of stars on hand, the 2017 NBA All-Star Game fell flat for a lot of basketball fans. Taking a few plays off is one thing, but fans increasingly feel the league's mid-season event lacks an element of competitiveness to make it compelling.
In lieu of blaming millennials for this problem, NBA commissioner Adam Silver is in search of a solution to restore the former glory of the All-Star Game. Speaking at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston on Saturday, Silver told the crowd that Chris Paul reached out on behalf of the player's union to start a dialogue on the matter. Per Five Thirty Eight's Chris Herring:
This is an encouraging sign. The league can do a lot of things, but it can't force buy-in from players who are mostly trying to get through the event unscathed. They need to rest up for playoff runs and pushes, so defense is firmly optional at All-Star weekend.
But just when you thought things were headed in the right direction, Silver dropped quite a bomb on the Sloan audience:
It's hard to understand the logic here. The NBA supposedly wants their players to take the game more seriously, but one of the public suggestions for change from the league's own commissioner is to fundamentally change the game? It's a ludicrous idea and doesn't do much to serve their stated goal of making it competitive.
Players are already speaking out against the premise. Warriors superstar Steph Curry spoke to ESPN's Chris Haynes after Silver teased the idea on Saturday, and he flat-out said a 10-point shot from half-court, "would make it worse."
A few of Curry's teammates and fellow All-Stars agreed with their leader. Draymond Green offered a simple solution: "Raise the money," he said. "I'm serious. That's how you're going to make it more competitive."
Klay Thompson concurred with Green on the importance of upping the stakes, and made clear the reason many players are tentative to exert maximum effort. "Fear of being injured is a factor. You don’t want to get injured in a game that really has no implications," he said.
If the league wants to add some more financial incentive for the winning team, or do almost anything to change the motivational factors, those are real discussions to be had. Participants in the game, including probable flat-Earth truther Kyrie Irving, have already expressed a desire to ramp up the defense in future contests. The NBA doesn't need to reinvent the wheel to get things pointed in the right direction.
Silver should certainly take advice from All-Stars who are interested in a more competitive game. But someone please tell him to start ignoring whoever had the 10-point shot idea.
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