One of the greatest advantages in getting so many basketball minds in one place with the TrueHoop Network is…well, getting so many basketball minds in one place. It would be a shame not to take full advantage of the network’s capabilities, and so we had a round table of sorts to discuss potential All-Star Game reform.
Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: All-Star Weekend has been ‘broken’ for a long time. The voting has become suspect, the dunk contest is driven by toys and ploys, and the game itself, while it has never really valued substance over spectacle, has devolved into botched alley-oop attempts and centers launching threes. If that’s your cup of disgusting, decades-old tea, then awesome. If not: trust me, you’re not alone.
First, let’s talk voting. They say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But if the system already picked Allen Iverson over more qualified guards, and was on the verge of voting Tracy McGrady over Chris Paul, Bruce Bowen over Amar’e Stoudemire or Dirk Nowitzki, and Yi Jianlian over Kevin Garnett, I’d say it’s as close to “broke” as I’d like to get. We all understand the problems, but what’s the solution?
John Krolik, Cavs the Blog: Make the process a little more Hobbesian. My idea: Take positions off the ballot, top-3 vote getters are guaranteed starting spots at their respective positions or as close as possible, and coaches decide the rest. This pretty much keeps the ridiculous picks like T-Mac, AI, or Yi from having a shot and allows the coaches to reserve the right to prevent a ridiculous starter snub for a guy like CP3 without secret intervention being necessary. It’s not perfect, but better than the current system. (Although I love that everyone thinks a situation with Chinese people voting is a disaster and needs to be stopped. How offensive is that?)
Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: Love the idea, and I’ve got another: what if the players themselves voted to decide the starters? I know it’s a game for the fans, but wouldn’t the players have the most insight into who does the most amazing things on the court, who makes the game fun, and who truly deserves it? Of course it opens up an entirely new can of worms in bringing player politics into the equation, but maybe that’s half the fun. Every player on a team roster as of “Voting Day” fills out a ballot for the starting five of each conference, with no nominations or predetermined options. The possible deception and teammate betrayal are just an added bonus to what could shake up to be an interesting selection process.
For now the fans of the league are deluded into thinking they’re holding the real power, and that perception helps out the league image. So don’t count on any significant change coming soon.
The Slam Dunk Contest is the primary evidence pointing to the ASW’s decline, and something needs to be done. Dwight Howard’s getting everyone excited, but are a bunch of neat parlor tricks really what this event needs to spark a renaissance? What else do you guys have in mind for the future of the Dunk Contest?
Jeremy Wagner, Roundball Mining Company: I think a high dunk competition would be great. Keep raising the rim higher and higher and see who the last man standing is. You could set up different groups such as 6’4″ and under, 6’4″ to 6’10″ and 6’10″ and above.
Wouldn’t you want to see if Yao Ming can dunk on a rim as high as Dwight Howard can or if Derrick Rose can throw down on a rim higher than Dwyane Wade? You could also have the winners between the three groups battle it out. How riveted would you be if LeBron James and Dwight Howard were going into the finals of the high dunk competition after both of them won their divisions by ramming one home on a 12 foot rim?
John Krolik, Cavs the Blog: This one is more a tweak and might already be what’s happening, but have the league tap a few guys who might be dunk contest guys, have the execs go back in like a month and see what the guys have come up with, then narrow it down from like the 10 guys they originally chose based on practice scuttlebutt to the 4 contestants. I don’t care about getting big names, I just want awesome dunks. And no more fan voting. I voted for Rudy because he was way cooler in the ad than the other two guys, and then I learn Joe Alexander promised to do two never-seen before dunks WITHOUT ANY PROPS. Not only would that have been great to see, but he would have instantly become “No-Prop Joe” on my website forever. Again, down with democracy.
M. Haubs, The Painted Area: One enduring difficulty with the dunk contest currently is that, at this point, it’s hard to top the dunks of the past. To alleviate that pressure, alternate between the “Artistic” competition and the “High Dunk” competition (very much agree that this would be fun) on an annual basis. I think the every-other-year scarcity would help make both competitions more special.
To reform the “Artistic” competition itself, turn it into more of a figure-skating model (let me explain, please), where the competitors get a certain time period – 2 minutes or 4 minutes or whatever – to put together a program of dunks.
This encourages spectacular attempts because a single miss would be less penalized (and boring makes would be less useful), yet you couldn’t just miss 72 times and still win the competition like Nate Robinson. Not sure if it should be one round or two rounds, just go from there. I think that bumping the prize money way up to $1M or so would boost interest, as well.
Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: I think for this year, I’d settle for Rudy Gay not being a major buzz-kill. But I guess disappointment really is in the spirit of the weekend, whether it’s who blew the dunk contest, who got left off the All-Star rosters…or this year, who’s on the outside looking in on the Rookie Challenge. Kevin Love’s got his jock strap in a bunch over the whole ordeal (and rightfully so), but why? The game is promoted as a “rivalry,” and I love fast breaks as much as the next guy, but in truth I’ve never seen a Rookie-Sophomore game that really tickled my fancy. The game is somewhat limited by its own arbitrary purpose; the sophomores are almost always going to win, unless they’re faced with a vastly superior draft class, in which they still sometimes win. Yay. Still, the event seems salvageable. Maybe in another life or another form, but there is some redeeming value in the idea of a rookie event. So where do we go from here?
Dan Feldman, Piston Powered: Get rid of the sophomores. Would you rather see Kevin Durant and Co. beat up up on some first-year players or get a chance to see Kevin Love, Marreese Speights, Eric Gordon, Mario Chalmers and Joe Alexander in extended action?
Mike Kurylo, Knickerblogger: I’d like to see the freshmen play the NBDL All Stars. It’s become apparent that the NBDL is a viable source of NBA level talent. I think this would be a competitive game, since each has something valuable to play for. The D-Leaguers will be fighting to show that they belong in the league, and they may have an extra chip on their shoulder playing millionaire rookies.
M. Haubs, The Painted Area: Wow, Rookie vs. D-League is a fantastic idea. Absolutely no downside. Huge increase in the game’s intensity.
Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: Seems like a great way to turn nothing into something, and it’s a wonderful idea to integrate the under-appreciated D-Leaguers.
I refuse to acknowledge the existence of the Shooting Stars competition, so just about the only area due for a revamp is the Skills Challenge. Although unlike the Rookie-Sophomore Game, I’m not entirely sure that the Skills Challenge has some kind of underlying purpose (“OMG, which point guard can run around cones the fastest and make a lay-up?!”). Just for fun, though, what should be done to breathe life into the young event that has, quite tragically, already worn out its welcome?
Jeremy Wagner, Roundball Mining Company: I would like to see players other than guards participate in the skills challenge. How fun would it be to watch Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge and Lamar Odom battle it out? There could also be a big man division with players like Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard, Nene, Amare Stoudemire, Pau Gasol and Marcus Camby.
The last change to the competition format would be a pentathlon. There could be a skills challenge, three point shootout, trick shot shootout, race four lengths of the court with a basketball and then maybe the Mikan Drill (60 seconds to make as many layups as you can alternating hands with each shot). Whoever wins would be given the title of The Most Complete Player in the NBA or Most Versatile Player in the NBA. A financial bonus is this could be held at a second venue resulting in more ticket sales.
John Krolik, Cavs the Blog: The invitees will be Gerald Wallace, Anthony Randolph, Josh Smith, and Julian Wright. Set up challenges set to their talents. Watch as universe itself melts.
M. Haubs, The Painted Area: A “Fastest With the Ball” Competition – I think this is a huge improvement over the current Skills Competition in part because the time record would be much more tangible, and something that young fans could conceivably do to see how they compare to the pros. 3 heats of 3 players apiece – top 3 advance to the final.
Also love the idea of including big men – could have separate competitions by height: 6-4 and under, 6-5 to 6-9, and 6-10 and above. Tell me you wouldn’t have wanted to see Shaq, Hakeem and the Admiral compete in this one in their primes.
Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: Personally, I’m ready to watch the universe melt. John’s idea would absolutely rock my world and could produce some of the most entertaining, randomly derived events (Could they block two shots at the same time? Who could steal it from Chris Paul first? If all players were given a ball and a finite space, who would be the last man standing with an active dribble? Could they block a shot launched out of a machine like a clay pigeon?).
At that point, though, the Skills Challenge would be the Skills Challenge in name only. In essence, it’s an entirely new event. So what else ya got? What other events is All-Star Weekend lacking/what’s a new event that would be infinitely watchable and intriguing? Or, taking it a step further, what is any new idea that you’d like to see the league take on for the Weekend?
Matt McHale, By the Horns: I like the idea of a pickup game where guys shoot up for teams (three-pointers instead of free throws, I’m thinking) and then letting them go at it. Not for the main event, but for a day-before distraction. Maybe do only 3-on-3 or 2-on-2 and have a mini-tournament with games to 9 (by 1s and 2s).
I think Bill Simmons has suggested games of H-O-R-S-E and (I think it was him) one-on-one. Basically, more opportunities for the All-Stars to compete and interact outside of the game itself, but not in unnatural ways like the skills competition, which doesn’t include all the players anyway.
John Krolik, Cavs the Blog: One-on-One and HORSE are no-brainers. Give LBJ and Kobe like 3 million each. It’d be worth it. CP3 vs. Deron, Amare vs. KG, easy.
M. Haubs, The Painted Area: I think that H-O-R-S-E and 1-on-1 might be more tedious in reality than they might seem.
A Halfcourt Challenge: As described by Bill Simmons a few years ago: “Two teammate have two minutes to make as many half-court shots as possible. None of them can launch one until the previous shot has hit the rim. Highest total wins.”
Brett LaGree, Hoopinion: Half-court shot contest. Each All-Star gets 1 entry. He can either shoot himself or back someone to shoot on his behalf. Massive amounts of gambling ensue.
Anything that really achieves that last step would make for better viewing than a judged competition.
Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: 100% on board with that last notion.
Here’s an idea I wrote about some time ago:
“Strap a cordless microphone on every player, start each player with $20,000 cash, and let them make whatever bets they want with each other. $5,000 I can hit a half-court shot before you. $10k says the judges will like my tomahawk jam more than yours. $20,000 says I can shoot 50% from the free throw line blind-folded. That kind of thing. To keep everyone from talking at once, I guess they should be paired up, which would require some kind of elimination tournament. If they had this, it would be the must-see event of All-Star weekend. It’s like poker meets basketball.”
Dan Feldman, Piston Powered: An old-timer’s game. I’m not talking about a bunch of guys standing out of the way so Julius Erving can try to dunk. I want to see some guys who aren’t that far from their retirement and are still competitive enough to want to win. This may mean former All-Stars like Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller, Karl Malone, Dennis Rodman, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwan, Glen Rice, Scottie Pippen, Rik Smits, Antoine Walker, Mitch Richmond, Nick Van Exel, Terrell Brandon or Alonzo Mourning. Or this might mean role players who are still in shape, like P.J. Brown, Robert Horry, Kevin Willis, Toni Kukoc, Jon Barry or Clifford Robinson. A good mix of the two groups would provide the best game.
Also, a Two-on-two tournament between players from each state and country (that has two player represented in the NBA). Games would be short, probably to seven. This could bring some March Madness-type Cinderella stories to the weekend. And think of the potential for jersey sales. Here’s a look at what teams might look like:
Alabama: Ben Wallace and Gerald Wallace
Alaska: Carlos Boozer and Mario Chalmers
Arkansas: Joe Johnson and Derek Fisher
California: Ray Allen and Tayshaun Prince
Connecticut: Ryan Gomes and Marcus Camby
Delaware: Joey Graham and Steven Graham
Washington D.C.: Delonte West and Kevin Durant
Florida: Amar’e Stoudemire and Vince Carter
Georgia: Dwight Howard and Josh Smith
Illinois: Dwyaye Wade and Andre Iguodala
Indiana: Greg Oden and Zach Randolph
Iowa: Nick Collison and Patrick O’Bryant
Kansas: Earl Watson and Maurice Evans
Kentucky: Rajon Rondo and Greg Buckner
Louisiana: Danny Granger and Paul Millsap
Maryland: Jeff Green and Rudy Gay
Massachusetts: Demetris Nichols and Courtney Sims
Michigan: Jason Richardson and Kenyon Martin
Minnesota: Joel Przybilla and Devean George
Mississippi: Al Jefferson and Mo Williams
Missouri: David Lee and Larry Hughes
Nevada: C.J. Watson and Ricky Davis
New Jersey: Shaquille O’Neal and David West
New York: Carmelo Anthony and Elton Brand
North Carolina: Chris Paul and Josh Howard
Ohio: Lebron James and Kevin Martin
Oklahoma: Shelden Williams and Jake Voskuhl
Oregon: Ronnie Brewer and Ime Udoka
Pennsylvania: Kobe Bryant and Jameer Nelson
South Carolina: Kevin Garnett and Raymond Felton
Tennessee: Brandan Wright and J.J. Redick
Texas: Chris Bosh and LaMarcus Aldridge
Virginia: Allen Iverson and Keith Bogans
Washington: Brandon Roy and Rodney Stuckey
West Virginia: O.J. Mayo and Deron Williams
Wisconsin: Caron Butler and Devin Harris
Argentina: Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola
Brazil: Nene and Anderson Varejao
Canada: Steve Nash and Samuel Dalembert
China: Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Dikembe Mutumbo and Didier Ilunga-Mbenga
Dominican Republic: Fransisco Garcia and Al Horford
France: Tony Parker and Boris Diaw
Germany: Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman
Italy: Andrea Bargnani and Danilo Gallinari
Lithuania: Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Linas Kleiza
Netherlands: Dan Gadzuric and Fransisco Elson
Nigeria: Emeka Okafor and Ime Udoka
Puerto Rico: Carlos Arroyo and Jose Barea
Senegal: DeSagana Diop and Cheick Samb
Serbia: Peja Stojakavic and Aleksandar Pavlovic
Slovenia: Rasho Nesterovic and Beno Udrih
Spain: Pau Gasol and Jose Calderon
Turkey: Mehmet Okur and Hedo Turkoglu
Ukraine: Kyrylo Fesenko and Oleksiy Pecherov
United Kingdom: Ben Gordon and Luol Deng
Virgin Islands: Raja Bell and Tim Duncan
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: Back in P.E. we always played two basketball games that were lots of fun. One was called three-peat which was basically a team three-point contest and the other was Gotcha! I think NBA stars playing Gotcha! could potentially be the most entertaining television known to man. (Ed. Note: in my experience, this game has always been called “Knockout.”)
If you’re not familiar with it, here’s how it works: Players line up at the free throw (or three-point) line. There’s two balls. First guy shoots. Then second guy shoots. If the first guy misses, he runs after his rebound and gets as many tries to make it as he can. But if the second guy puts it in before him, the first guy is out. But say the first guy swishes his shot, he runs and grabs his rebound and passes it to the third guy in line who has the chance to get the second guy. The worst explanation ever for a game? Probably. But maybe you get the point.
I think this would be incredible to watch. I think you need to put the NBA guys at the three though. But imagine Kobe, LeBron, CP3, Dwight Howard, Shaq and whoever else doing this. I remember how much pressure you felt when you missed your shot because you just knew the guy behind you was going to sink his. And then you get crafty doing things like throwing your ball at the other guys in order to keep him from scoring and so on. I could just see NBA guys having a ton of fun with this. And heck, if the current NBA guys wouldn’t do it, how about old-
timers? That would be good too.
Tim Varner, 48 Minutes of Hell: This would be more fun if we did it when we got together. The pros don’t miss. No one is chasing their ball to the corner.
I’d like the league to announce the nominees for some of the end of the year awards (i.e. MVP, Defensive Player, 6th Man, Rookie of the Year) in a big, glitzy Oscar Ball kinda way. That is, bring out a couple celebrities, arm in arm, to announce the nominees for the various awards. 5 nominees per category.
Why? Well, it also helps to add celebrity appeal. But my hope is further reaching. By announcing “races” in each category, one would hope some of the players would take pride in winning–motivating their play in the back half of the season–and, more importantly, it would create a lot of conversation and debate between folks like us.
Jeremy Wagner, Roundball Mining Company: The last reform I would implement is that all hands be on deck. If you played in your team’s last game before the break, you are required to participate in at least one event should you be asked to do so by the league.