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Adam Silver says NBA ‘to look at U.S. versus international’ All-Star Game, but issues deeper

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The most anticipated and ultimately best part of the 2024 NBA All-Star Weekend was the Stephen Curry vs. Sabrina Ionescu 3-point shootout. That’s fitting because All-Star Saturday night — the Skills Competition, 3-Point Shootout and Dunk Contest — has been the best part of All-Star weekend for at least a decade. The All-Star Game itself is regularly a dud.

Adam Silver seems to be accepting that reality. He’s not happy about it, but he’s realizing what the NFL (the Pro Bowl Games with a skills competition and flag football) and the NHL (All-Star 3-on-3 tournament) already have — modern players trying to avoid injury have turned the traditional All-Star Game into a farce. Silver appeared on CNN’s King Charles with Charles Barkley and Gayle King and sounded like a guy resigned to something he does not like.

“We are going to look at U.S. vs. international. I just think maybe we are past that point where we are going to play a truly competitive game.”

We will see a USA vs. the World format where the players go hard this summer at the Paris Olympics, where genuine national pride and gold medals are on the line. If the NBA tries to recreate that (in more of a Ryder Cup style of the USA vs. everyone) in the middle of the season, it will have the same results as this season’s return to East vs. West — which the players said they wanted, the league thought they had buy-in for, and instead we got the highest scoring game in All-Star history.

Silver on CNN sounds like a guy who realizes the futility of another format change.

“I think maybe as opposed to trying to create a super competitive basketball game, which I am not sure the teams or the players really want, we should do different things and make it a celebration of basketball.”

The “back in Jordan’s day” wishing by Silver and fans will not change reality. First, for All-Star players, the actual game itself is the final part of a long weekend of NBA-pushed fan and sponsor events — by the time players get to that game, they’re just mentally tired. Second, players are trying to avoid injury with a playoff push coming up that will have far more impact on their legacies — and next contracts — than the All-Star Game.

“It’s always fun. But I don’t know what they can do to make it more competitive,” Anthony Edwards said after this year’s All-Star Game. “It’s a break. I don’t think nobody wants to come here and compete.”

“But I think the good thing that came out of tonight was none of the players were injured, and everybody came out unscathed or how they were before the game started,” LeBron James echoed, summarizing the players’ mindset.

Silver seems to be coming around to reality. The league needs to brainstorm ways to turn events like Curry vs. Ionescu and the 3-Point Contest into the highlight of the weekend and move away from the All-Star Game in its current format. Have fans (and media, and players) vote to name All-Stars just like now, but the game itself is a dinosaur.

Silver sounds like a man reluctantly accepting that reality.

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