NBA scraps East vs. West, takes schoolyard approach to All-Star Game in 2018

Something had to change.

“It’s kind of a joke the way we’re playing right now,” Paul George admitted during my conversation with him after All-Star Weekend 2017 in New Orleans. The West topped the East, 192-182, and nearly 400 combined points were scored as both teams shot better than 57 percent.

Pelicans big man Anthony Davis set a new All-Star game record with 52 points (and 10 rebounds) in his home arena.

And so, the NBA is revamping the game in an effort to make it more exciting and, frankly, more watchable.

First of all, they are doing away with conferences. So it won’t pit the Eastern Conference against the Western Conference. That’s probably a necessary change — at least this season —  after the amount of talent that went to the west in the offseason.

“It’s crazy. I’ve never seen anything like that,” Pacers President Kevin Pritchard said.

Added Victor Oladipo: “The West is on steroids.”

Players will become All-Stars in the same fashion. The ten starters are voted in by the fans (50 percent), current players (25 percent), and media (25 percent). The reserves are chosen by the head coaches.

And the top two vote getters are the captains. They will be responsible for selecting teams, without regard for conference affiliation.

Indeed, just like it’s done in grad school.

So it’ll likely be LeBron James and Kevin Durant (or Russell Westbrook) choosing teams. Then comes the fun basketball drama, like who LeBron avoids. Or whether he can reunite Team Banana Boat (James, Wade, Bosh, CP3). That’s fun.

How about who gets chosen last? Yeah, that will be noteworthy…

Teams will also be playing for a good cause, either a local (Los Angeles, in the case for 2018) or national charity. So they have skin in the game, and that’s necessary after the last few games have featured big men chucking up three pointers and little defense being played.

“I was asking guys like, man, ‘At what point do you guys want to start playing some defense?,” said George, a four-time participant. “I think Giannis [Antetokounmpo] was the only one who took to it. I wanted to get after it. I think we got to change it back in the old days. Give that arena really something to cheer for and know what side they want to root for.”

[VIDEO: Paul George grateful for being selected to his fourth All-Star game]

The challenge for the big name guys, like LeBron, KD, and Steph Curry is managing their time. And staying off their feet. Once they fly to All-Star Weekend, they are busy with practice, NBA cares events, and are typically involved in several branding opportunities personally.

For George that included an appearance at the Nike store and at a private event for New Era Cap.

“We get that little break and we want to take advantage of it,” George said. “We want to do as least as possible. [We have to] be mindful it’s for the fans, but we’re not trying to get hurt and we’re not trying to injure anybody. We’re trying to make it as light as possible again. I think that’s really why you got sort of a lackadaisical day.”

[Paul George purposely planning lighter All-Star schedule]

The 2018 All-Star game will be held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 18 at 8:00 pm ET.

“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,” said NBPA President Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets.  “We’re looking forward to putting on an entertaining show in L.A.”

Timeline for All-Star Announcements

  • Monday, Dec. 25: Voting begins.
  • Thursday, Jan. 18: Starters and captains unveiled.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 23: Reserves unveiled.
  • Sunday, Feb. 18: Game time in L.A.

[Photo: Frank McGrath/PS&E]

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