NEW YORK -- The annual NBA All-Star Game has become a noncompetitive, 48-minute exhibition in which defense isn't played. There is very little resistance on both ends of the floor, and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr told ESPN that it’s up to the players to fix that.
“I think we could talk about gimmicks and talk about anything we want, whether it’s the money or involves charity, it just comes down to the players taking it seriously,” Kerr said. “I don’t think they have to be out there taking charges, but it’s a collective thing. I think they have to decide, maybe with the players' association, they have to decide what they want that game to look like, and right now, it’s a joke.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently spoke on a panel with FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, and he mentioned the possibility of a 4-point shot and a half-court 10-point shot being added to the All-Star Game as soon as next season to help increase the level of intensity.
“Nah, [a 10-point, half-court shot] would make it worse,” Stephen Curry told ESPN. “Four-point shot maybe, but that’s still kind of enticing people to just test stuff out. Nah, a 10-point shot definitely wouldn’t work, but maybe a 4-point shot.”
Draymond Green has a simple solution for the lack of competitiveness in the All-Star Game.
“Raise the money,” the power forward told ESPN. “I’m serious. That’s how you’re going to make it more competitive.”
Kerr was the head coach for the Western Conference All-Stars in New Orleans last month. He witnessed up close the complete disregard of players failing to attempt to make even the most routine of basketball plays.
He said it’s “embarrassing” how that mid-February exhibition is being played.
“In my mind, what’s happened is everybody is trying to be so cool out there that you almost feel guilty if you play hard,” Kerr said. “Maybe the best thing to do will be to watch a tape of an All-Star Game from about 1985, because it was a different game back then. It wasn’t like guys were diving on the floor for loose balls and taking charges, but it was competitive. And I think you’re just as likely to get hurt not trying than you are competing at 75 percent. And that’s all they need to do, is compete at 75 percent. Right now, they’re like at 10 percent, and that’s embarrassing.”
Injury prevention seems to be the reasoning behind giving minimum effort.
“Fear of being injured is a factor,” the Warriors' Klay Thompson said. “You don’t want to get injured in a game that really has no implications. I have no idea [how to fix the problem]. I don’t know. Incentives? Raise the money or maybe a nice car if you win? I think that would make guys play harder.”
While Green offered a more clear resolution, Curry isn't sure what would work.
“I honestly have no idea,” Curry said. “In playing in my fourth one, there’s moments where the intensity ramps up, but it has been a culture that’s been adopted in that game where you’re not trying to be in position where you’re hurting anybody. You try to let people showcase their athletic ability. I don’t know if there’s a perk that you can put on the game that would raise the stakes a little bit. Right now the winning team makes a little bit more money, but I don’t know what that would be. Obviously I still have fun with the way the game is. It just looks different, and it’s played differently. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing.”
Many would beg to differ with Curry’s opinion of the lackluster effort not being a "bad thing." The only player who appeared close to leaving it all out on the court Feb. 19 was Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.
He was picking up players full-court on defense and relentlessly attacking the offensive glass as if his team were fighting for a playoff berth. On one particular play, Antetokounmpo had the ball on a transition break with only Curry in his way. The two-time MVP playfully laid out on the floor and allowed Antetokounmpo to go in for an uncontested dunk.
It was a comical moment, but it probably even ventured a little outside of modern day All-Star Game standards.
Kerr is adamant that the onus for change is on the players.
“Players have to make that decision, and I think they need to understand that it would be good for the league if they did compete,” Kerr said. “Again, you’re not undercutting people in transition, you’re not taking charges, you’re not diving on the floor for loose balls. But if you’re staying in front of guys, and if somebody throws a pass in your direction, you’re going to steal it. I mean, I saw guys in that game purposely not stealing the ball even though it was thrown right to them. It’s bizarre, but it’s the way the game has been trending for years. I think it would be great for the league if the players took it upon themselves to say, ‘You know what, let’s make this an entertaining game for the fans, because right now it’s kind of an embarrassment.’”
Kerr, along with Curry, Green and Thompson, might not see eye to eye on what it would take to make the game more competitive, but they all agreed that implementing a 10-point shot isn’t the answer.
“It has to be some other perk that I can’t really think of right now that would entice people, I guess, just to play a little bit more defense,” Curry said to ESPN. “That’s really it. The intensity is there. You can’t just walk out there and do a windmill. People are actually playing hard to a certain extent, but we’re not trying to injure anybody. That’s the main goal.”