Thursday, February 17, 2011

6 comments All-Star Weekend Shake Up

In case you didn't know, the NBA All-Star game is this weekend. In all honesty, I had no idea until I looked it up a few minutes ago. But that's just how this NBA season has felt. We're so caught up in the present that we neglect looking to the future. Throughout the previous five seasons, we have awaited a fixed number of playoff series. But not this year. The basketball universe has an imbalance which is yet to be corrected. The San Antonio Spurs, despite leading the West, shouldn't be elite. Tim Duncan is a shell of his former self. Manu Ginobili's bald spot has gone from a hilarious side note to the staple of his appearance. Kevin Durant should be the MVP. The Miami Heat should be hands down the best team in the NBA. The Los Angeles Lakers shouldn't consider making a deal. But all these things are happening and defying the preseason logic that normally proves itself valid.

As we have waited for the ship to right itself, All-Star weekend has snuck up on us (kind of like the guy who sidles in Seinfeld). In its purest form, it's a showcase of the NBA's best talent, regardless of team ability. But this season's rosters, more so than most seasons, have taken an ugly turn. In the East, only six teams are represented, none of which are currently below the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference. In the West, only Kevin Love is not on a playoff team. Clearly this imbalance will always occur; the better players usually play on winning teams. But at some point, we have to be honest with ourselves.

Yesterday I was introduced to the Rik Smits award for the player with the most undeserving, random and never-going to-happen-again All-Star selection. Al Horford, this year's winner, is just one example of the prejudice that afflicts the All-Star game. Mo Williams, a previous winner, is another. But this list should not exist. It's ruining the NBA's supposed showcase.

In short, the coaches are slipping. So much so that reputation and winning precedes on-court ability. And a player with only his reputation to cling to is most likely aging. Taking that one step further, an aging player will probably make an All-Star Game less exciting.

So among other changes to All-Star weekend (A 16 person, 1-on-1 competition which I outlined previously), the NBA should create 2 rosters. Roster 1's selection would proceed with complete coach autonomy. No fan input, no chance of Yao Ming making the roster. Simply the best players in the NBA. When a player's NBA All-Star appearances are considered, this is what we would refer to.

The secondary All-Stars would be the NBA's most exciting players. Instead of coaches picking the best players, have select media members (I know I know, that's probably a bad idea. But I don't have anything better), come up with a list of 50 of the most exciting players in the NBA. No one really wants to watch Paul Pierce operate at 0.5 miles per hour. As fundamentally sound as Tim Duncan's post game is, he's the sole reason why the Spurs have been completely unwatchable (not including this year) for the past 13 seasons. Every time they make an ESPN or TNT appearance, I just want to hit the turbo button, NBA 2k11 style. Even players like Dirk, Kevin Love and Chris Bosh may miss the cut. Finesse and fundamentals represent a one-way ticket away from Youtube. Essentially, if you're a Youtube sensation as an NBA player, this is the game for you. And this would be the All-Star Game we watch. Imagine watching Rudy Gay and Shannon Brown instead of Dirk? Imagine watching Nate Robinson dunk over Blake Griffin? I understand that the NBA All-Star game showcases the best the league has to offer, but sometimes best does not equal best, if you know what I mean.

Maybe this is why they made the dunk contest. But if the most exciting players are unwilling to participate (in general), let's throw them into the All-Star Game mix instead. They wouldn't say no to that, right?

Will this ever happen? Absolutely not. But it's fun to imagine these dunks occurring for 48 minutes on both ends of the floor (A link worth clicking on, I promise).


cs said...

Just read your post from last year. I love the 1-on-1 idea. And as I was reading it, I'm thinking, man gambling on this would be great, and you ended your column with that. Exactly. Because All-Star weekend ensures there are no really good gambling opportunities, we need something fun like this. Also, if you could have it outdoors, like this year in LA it'd be awesome on the courts right on the beach.

Thinking about it, I wonder if you could seed the bracket with same-season stats. Though I like the whole WWE style of calling out your opponent live. I'd love to see Kobe call out Ray Allen or something along these lines.

Bengoodfella said...

Cs, I like that idea as well. I think outdoor basketball would be something different. I also wish they would bring back the Legends game. Bring back some of the older players and have them go against in each other in a game. It would be great to see Michael Jordan still be uber-competitive. I would like to see the Legends game come back.

As long as the 1-on-1 is serious that would be great. I am just afraid players wouldn't take it seriously.

your favourite sun said...

Yesterday I was introduced to the Rik Smits award for the player with the most undeserving, random and never-going to-happen-again All-Star selection. Al Horford, this year's winner, is just one example of the prejudice that afflicts the All-Star game.

This is Horford's second All-Star game. And he's only 24.

I have to say I reject this entire premise, basically. It smacks of a Bill Simmons style half-assed revisionism. Sometimes a player looks random only in hindsight, because for some reason when it comes to basketball players more than other sports people so soon forget when a player was actually good. Rik Smits was good enough in a couple different seasons to be an All-Star, just because it happened only once doesn't mean that it was a horrible and random decision that hurt the supposed prestige of the game. I hope you're not thinking "Shawn Bradley" when you see Rik Smits(even though Bradley was also better than people want to remember, he was not close to Smits's league). Other than that, though, while there are always a couple changes every year that I would make to the rosters, there aren't enough players that I wouldn't concede were at least close enough to All-Star calibre that I would single them out for "ruining" the "showcase."

I have zero interest in seeing Rudy Gay or Shannon Brown. I'm already sick of seeing Nate Robinson on All-Star weekend, and he's never even been an All-Star. I see enough of these guys in the regular season, and if they were better players I would see more of them. For what you're describing, the only guy I'd really want to see is Josh Smith. But he's close to making the team on his own anyways, hopefully it'll happen one of these days. Last season I would have said Anthony Randolph but then that would have made him the secondary team's winner of the Rik Smits award because this year he sucks.

You write that including Mo Williams is "ruining" the "supposed showcase." Honestly, I think you'll end up breaking something that is working fine. I don't see how promoting mediocrity like Shannon Brown or Nate Robinson is in any way better than promoting Mo Williams or Gerald Wallace or Al Horford. "Look how exciting these guys are! Don't you wanna watch regular season games now...and see them play 11 whole minutes off the bench?" It sounds counterproductive.

On the other hand I would love a 1-on-1 tourney, if you can actually find sixteen guys who will be both fun to watch and willing to put their egos on the line.

your favourite sun said...

In the West, only Kevin Love is not on a playoff team.

I had no idea the Clippers were a playoff team.

It also appears that your solution for creating the kind of game that you feel the fans want to watch is to box the fans out of roster selection entirely. That seems like an odd way to go about it. Fans voted for Tim Duncan to start on numerous occasions...if they wanted more Jamario Moon they could have done something about it(okay, maybe not Moon since he probably never made the ballot and has never been in the Western conference, but that's another "Youtube sensation" that I have no desire to see in an All-Star game so I'm picking on him). Duncan doesn't come from the biggest market, isn't an ambassador for the game type and isn't exciting to watch. So who are we blaming for voting for him? Do we really think the basketball "purists"(a bullshit phrase but that's a rant for another day) outnumber the casual voters by so much they routinely put Duncan ahead of Garnett? It's possible that fans really do want to see the best players that they respect the most in the showcase, even if some of them play boring.

Dylan said...


The 1-on-1 tournament is what I'm pulling for most. I think it would a great addition to an already excellent weekend. An outdoor game would also be amazing. If the NHL can do it, so can the NBA.


I agree that players might not take it seriously. But I think in the heat of the moment, players won't want to lose. It's not like the regular All-Star and Rookie/Sopohomore game where blame for a loss can be deflected. If you lose 1-on-1, it's solely on you.


I did not check my facts on Horford and forgot about Griffin (dumb of me, clearly), so you're right to call me out on that.

Regarding the general premise, it's just a fundamental difference in what we desire to see. I do not claim to represent everyone. Clearly the current format is the best to suit everyone. I think Tim Duncan gets voted into the All-Star game both because people like him, but also because he's a great player. Even though the voting is in part a popularity contest, when you reach a certain ability level, you're getting into the All-Star game no matter how exciting/non exciting you are.

I also was not attempting to take the voting out of fans hands. I simply wanted coaches to narrow the field, and then fans to vote in the rest. Once the coaches narrow it to 50, fans would narrow it from there.

I understand that this is a radical change that a) would never happen and b) would not be accepted by many. I completely understand your side of it. I love basketball for just the quality of the game itself.

your favourite sun said...

Okay, I was wondering about that because you mentioned a 50 player list, but then went on a tangent about boring I figured either you wanted a 50 player game or you meant to say that fans vote from a list of 50. I kept rereading the paragraph to see if you were saying the latter and I was just missing it.

I still disagree with that system but it makes more sense. My main problem is that it's similar to the current process only you want to exclude superior players in favor of benchwarmers who may be funner to watch. But that's all subjective...I watched Mo Williams play in Milwaukee for four seasons and thought he was entertaining as Hell. But writers may have, depending on which season we're talking about, bumped him from such a list for, say, Rafer Alston or Smush Parker. Both of whom would look worse than Rik Smits right about now.

Like I said I just don't think it's broken. I sympathize with not wanting to see Duncan, Pierce and current Garnett dominating the game with their shrieks and creaks, because I felt the same way the past ten years watching the Spurs as you...but it's not like the game has ever been dominated by these types. There's always been a Vince Carter or Tracy McGrady, and this year we'll have LeBron, Wade, Blake Griffin, etc...they'll play similar to a secondary All-Stars team only they'll be far better players.

Suggestion that came to me out of nowhere just now--how about the 12th spot of the rosters be used on an "exciting" player? MLB has something like an Internet vote for the last roster spot, right? So why not basketball? You'd have basically the same rosters as the current game, only with Josh Smith added to the East and JR Smith to the West(replace either or both Smiths with your own choices, but they're the ones I personally would vote for). This would sound like something that could be realistically considered and it wouldn't water the game down too much with 7th men.