Sure, the All-Star Weekend could add a half-court shooting contest. They could add H-O-R-S-E. Or better yet P-I-G, sponsored by Farmland. That would go nicely with the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the Foot Locker 3-Point Shooting Contest, and Sprite Slam Dunk extravaganz-o-rama.Or whatever. How about a Trash Talking contest sponsored by Orbit?
It wouldn't change a thing.
Patrick, Kevin Love disagrees. The Timberwolf thinks the NBA should imitate baseball, and let the All-Star Game winner get home-court advantage for The Finals. Oh, sure. Like that would make Joe Johnson care. Jake, you hit on one surefire way to get the players fired up: money. A big, fat check for the winning team would work.
But why? Making the game more competitive would increase the risk of injuries, sure. But, just like in baseball, trying to make the game matter misses the whole point of the exhibition. Namely, exhibiting. The idea is for fans to see the game's biggest stars in a loose, relaxed setting where they can not only show off their streetball skills, but also let their personalities shine through. The problem, and the reason that all your perfectly sound suggestions won't change much, is that the game doesn't have any. Personalities, that is.
What we have here is an "all-star" game with precisely two stars. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. The rest of the starters—Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, or Kevin Durant—they are all great players, sure. But none of them has a personality bigger than the game. None has the charisma to match their skills—not the kind to draw new fans or more deeply engage old ones. It's not like anyone is clamoring for commercials where Marc Gasol sells underwear, or anyone wants to put LaMarcus Aldridge in a movie with Bugs Bunny.
Bizarrely, the most interesting player in the league almost wasn't invited to Orlando. The roster for Saturday night's young stars game was set before Jeremy Lin's breakout streak. Commissioner David Stern, in an insanely self-destructive burst of legalism, had told USA Today he wouldn't make an exception and add Lin to the roster, then came to his senses and invited the kid.
But, well... Beyond getting more Ivy League, undrafted Asian-Americans to electrify a whole new fan base, I'm stumped about how to improve the weekend. Because all the format tweaks in the world won't make the festivities on the court any more interesting until fans care about the players off it.