NBA commissioner Adam Silver admitted the All-Star Game needs fixing and put a timetable on an overhaul for the floundering event: next season.
“We will change it by next year,” Silver said at the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on Friday. “It shouldn’t be playoff intensity, but the guys should be playing.”
A day or two after the All-Star Game, Silver said Chris Paul — a nine-time All-Star himself and president of the National Basketball Player’s Association — reached out to him, saying “we need to fix this.” The two came to an agreement that the sides who negotiated the collective bargaining agreement should come together and find ways to fix the All-Star Game.
“We had Michael Jordan on the owners side, and Jeanie Buss and Wyc Grousbeck and others,” Silver said. “And [for the players], it was James Jones and Kyle Korver and LeBron and others. And he said let’s all get back together and figure out how to do this.”
One of Paul’s suggestions, Silver said, was turning over All-Star voting power to team captains, who would select their own players before the game. Silver also joked around with the idea of employing both four-point and 10-point shots.
“Maybe instead of fan ballots selecting the starters, let the captains pick the starters. Again, it is an All-Star Game. It’s out there to have fun,” he said.
The 2017 All-Star Game had higher ratings than in past years, the commissioner said, but defensive indifference by players wore on some of the spectators in attendance and watching remotely. All-Star Game MVP Anthony Davis scored a record 52 points in front of his home team’s crowd in New Orleans, yet half came from uncontested dunks.
The game’s combined 274 points was the most in All-Star history, and both teams shot better than 54 percent from the field.
Silver admitted potential injuries rank chief among the reasons why players hit the snooze button during the All-Star Game.
“I think that [NBA players] are the most competitive people in the world, but there’s kind of a groupthink notion out there,” he said. “And when you have general managers and coaches in essence saying ‘go easy, don’t forget this is for fun.’
Here’s a full transcript of his answer below.
“So much credit goes to Chris Paul, who in addition to being a superstar player was not an All-Star this year because he was injured. But he reached out to me a day or two after the All-Star Game, and it was his initiative, Chris saying, ‘We need to fix this.’ The rating was actually up, and I think a lot of our younger fans’ reaction is, ‘C’mon it’s an All-Star Game. They’re just having fun.’ And I had this conversation with [Rockets GM Daryl Morey] earlier, just because I wanted his take as a GM.
“On one hand, the reason I think we’ve ended up where we are is the focus on injuries and the analytics of now our teams track every move of every player; practice, on the floor and everything else. Obviously, you can take it to extremes. If you never wanted a player to get injured, you’d tell him never to leave his home or don’t go in the bathroom. I think that’s where the most injuries actually take place. The most dangerous place you can be is in the bathroom in your own home.
“One of the reasons why I think it’s important to make the change is because this league is about our players, and these great players and it’s no question fans are tuning in to watch. And I think that they are the most competitive people in the world, but there’s kind of a groupthink notion out there. And when you have general managers and coaches in essence saying ‘go easy, don’t forget this is for fun.’
Is this about millennials vs. Gen X?
“I don’t think so. If it’s millennial vs. Gen X, it’s the millennial coaches not the millennial players. This is one where we just have to reset. And you could see Giannis was out there, and the young guys were running around like ‘This is a game.’
“I think what we need to do there, and I already begun discussion with Chris. And in fact, his suggestion was let’s get back together with the same group that negotiated the collective bargaining agreement. We had Michael Jordan on the owners side, and Jeanie Buss and Wyc Grousbeck and others. And (for them), it was James Jones and Kyle Korver and LeBron and others. And he said let’s all get back together and figure out how to do this.
“One of his suggestions was the teams should have captains. Maybe instead of fan ballots selecting the starters, let the captains pick the starters. Again, it is an All-Star Game. It’s out there to have fun. You hear people talking about four-point shots. Something that’s not about to happen in the NBA, but maybe in an All-Star Game. Maybe there’s a few spots on the floor where it’s a four-point shot. Maybe there’s a half court shot in the last minute that’s 10 points. I don’t know. Maybe those are crazy ideas.
And I don’t think it’s a millennial vs. Gen X issue. I think they would have more fun. They wanna compete.”