Irving Hopes New All-Star Format Increases Competitiveness

WALTHAM, Mass. – It is widely felt that the NBA All-Star Game has lost its competitive appeal over the last several seasons, as it has developed into a non-stop, offensive showcase with little to no effort on the defensive end. Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving, who earned his fifth All-Star selection Thursday, wants that to change.

"I'd like it to be (more competitive)," Irving said Saturday, following a team practice session in Waltham, Massachusetts. "That's the hope."

All-Star Games of previous decades had a much greater competitive edge than those of recent years have had. Historically speaking, the exhibitions have always been high-scoring affairs, with combined point totals typically ranging from 250 to 300 points. Recently, however, that number has gradually crept up toward 400 points, including a record-breaking total of 374 points last season between the East and West squads.

Irving hopes the competitive edge of old will return to the All-Star Game next month, and that very well could happen thanks to a brand new format.

Ahead of the 2017-18 season, the NBA announced major changes to the construction of All-Star rosters. The league eliminated the traditional East vs. West format, and opted to transition to a schoolyard pick’em style.

Stephen Curry and LeBron James – the leading vote getters for their respective conferences – have been designated as the 2018 All-Star Game captains. They will be responsible for shaping their teams by selecting from a pool of 22 players – eight of which have already been voted in, and 14 of which will be selected by NBA coaches.

Irving is hoping that the schoolyard-style picking process will increase players’ incentive to perform on both ends of the floor, while regenerating the game’s overall competitiveness.

"We're all great competitors and also great friends, and I think prior to the All-Star Games that have happened over the last couple years, there's been some bad blood going into All-Star Games and some matchups that people want to see," said Irving. "Hopefully this new format gives that competitive drive because I know some people want to see some matchups and some teams, everyone's hope of who they want to see go against one another. So I'm pretty sure as we all get closer to the weekend, we'll put on a show, especially better than it was last year in terms of being the high-scoring pace it was."

There’s also an increased level of excitement surrounding the selection process. The NBA is chock full of concentrated player-on-player drama, so many fans are wondering how that will play out when Curry and James make their picks behind closed doors.

Irving, on the other hand, isn’t so interested in the selection process itself.

"It is what it is," said Irving. "Whoever picks whoever, it doesn't really matter. As long as you identify with the honor and you're appreciative of it, that's the only thing that really matters."

It’s an honor that Irving surely doesn’t take for granted, even as a perennial All-Star.

"It's pretty awesome to be identified (as an All-Star) by the fans, the media, the players,” said Irving. “It's a great accomplishment for your career. There's still things ahead you want to accomplish throughout your season, but when you get to the midway point, playing in that game amongst your peers, it's always a fun time, especially for the fans who support the NBA."

Of course, the more competitive the All-Star Game is, the more fun it will be for the fans and players alike. Hopefully the new format will make that possible.