Why on earth is the NBA not televising the newly formatted All-Star player Draft, where LeBron James and Stephen Curry -- the leading vote-getters, respectively, in the Eastern and Western Conferences -- select the 11 players that will join them on their teams?
I don’t mean releasing the actual results; that will happen Thursday on TNT. (The All-Star reserves, chosen by coaches, will be announced on TNT on Tuesday by our “Players Only” crew.)
I mean the part that everyone on NBA Earth wants to see -- James, who picks first, taking … who? And having to explain why he didn’t take the other guys -- specifically, Kyrie Irving. Which would be followed by Curry having to do the same, and on and on, in deliciously excruciating fashion until the next-to-last All-Star is taken by James, leaving Mr. Irrelevant -- the 24th and final All-Star -- to go to Curry’s team by default.
Seriously: who wouldn’t tune in to that?
The league is hiding behind some “unfair to the players” drivel, when we all know it’s the powerful agents who represent their equally powerful All-Star clients who’ve whined behind the scenes, not wanting their guys to be embarrassed by not being picked first, or second, or fifth, or ninth, or not at all. To which I would have responded, too damn bad. Your guy is being paid eleventy billion dollars; he can be embarrassed for a minute, and then take it out on the captain that didn’t take him by clearing out a side on the Staples Center floor on Feb. 18 and dunking on his head if he feels so strongly about it.
Look, I work for Turner/TNT. I want what’s good for my company, and I understand that having exclusivity on the teams’ reveal is a good thing for us. But doing it live, in real time, would be better for us.
If you don’t televise it, what was the point of changing the format? The change was designed to inject new life into the All-Star format; the game may have reached its nadir last year in a no-defense snoozer nobody liked. It’s an exhibition game, not the Ten Commandments -- change whatever you like.
You want to go U.S. versus the world, like the NHL has done to spice up its All-Star Game? Fine. But you chose this. So why not take it to its logical conclusion and make LeBron and Steph explain themselves to everyone, or to get instant reaction from the snubbed? It’s not like they’re not going to be asked this at their respective news conferences on the Saturday of All-Star weekend, so we might as well get it over with.
And that would be the logical extension of how the NBA has marketed itself -- quite successfully, I think most would agree -- the last few years. The pro game has always been about the players, not the coaches; that’s college basketball, whose biggest stars are John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski and Bill Self, not the one-and-dones who barely register in their schools’ consciousness before they’re off to the Association. In the NBA, the players are the show.
Everything, from the in-game presentations at most arenas, to the hype videos we all show before games, to the commercials you see during the games, to the decisions teams make about trades and free agent signings, is influenced by the sway and power of the league’s best players -- the guys who will be on the All-Star team. The 12th man does not get a nine-figure shoe deal; the two-way player does not get the walkoff interview. That’s life in the big city.
The stars, the very best the NBA has to offer, are who everyone wants to see, every week. This week is no different. Can you imagine the tension if LeBron had to step to a podium, or however you want to format it, and tell the world that he’s taking Kevin Durant as his first pick? Or not taking Kevin Durant with his first pick, and having to explain why?
James and Curry are grown men. They can handle sticky situations. They do every day.
Now, it’s unlikely the league is going to have an 11th-hour change of heart. But just in case it does, or at least wants to implement this for the 2019 All-Star Game in Charlotte, what follows is a brief description of how it could pull it off with a modicum of investment, maximize eyeballs to screens, laptops, iPads and phones, and make it fun for everyone.
It’s an All-Star Game, folks. It’s not negotiating with the North Koreans. Let’s boogie:
1. Simulcast the hour-long show on ESPN and TNT, with one network’s reporter embedded with James, the other’s, with Curry. (Personally, I’d pick Rachel Nichols from ESPN and … who? Me? No, I couldn’t possibly.)
2. Each captain would have 30 seconds to make his pick. After he announces it, he would have to answer one question, as picked by the reporter: a) why did you pick KD, or b) why didn’t you pick Giannis?
3. Fans would have access to an 800 number; for 50 cents per call, they could vote for the player they’d like to see James or Curry take next. As each choice is revealed, one fan who correctly predicts the choice of either James or Curry in that round would be selected for a random drawing at the end of the broadcast; one of the 21 fans in the drawing (not 22, because we’ll know who the last player will be after the next-to-last player is taken) would win a trip for four to All-Star Weekend.
4. Proceeds from the calls would be split evenly between the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund and the Sager Strong Foundation.
5. After every pick, a “Greek Chorus” of three former NBA players would explain why they loved, or hated, the captain’s selection. (Again, personally: how could you go wrong with TNT’s Kevin Garnett, ESPN’s Paul Pierce and, say … Gary Payton?) And on it would go until the end of the show.
Also, the reserves should be:
EASTERN CONFERENCE: Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks; Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers; Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers; Al Horford, Boston Celtics; Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards; Goran Dragic, Miami Heat
WESTERN CONFERENCE: LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs; Jimmy Butler, Minnesota Timberwolves; Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder; Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers; Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns; Lou Williams, LA Clippers
You’re welcome, again.
* * *
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.