The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Sunday, April 19, 11:08 p.m.

Breaking down NBA’s All-Star Weekend

With the NBA All-Star break coming up, there’s a lot of buzz around the league. The game is always entertaining, but it doesn’t have as much importance or competitiveness as the MLB All-Star game, though I’d like it to.

Over the past few years, it has become more relevant than it was before, despite teams’ lack of defense. Stars like Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James don’t hold back, and seeing the league’s best go head-to-head is a treat for the fans.

In terms of All-Star weekend, the league has already taken some steps in the right direction by integrating all four events — shooting stars, skills challenge, 3-point contest, slam dunk contest — into a point system. Instead of all the events being independent from each other, it’s an East versus West matchup with Dwayne Wade captaining the East and Chris Paul captaining the West. Each side gets points based on the results from these events. The league will donate $350,000 to the winner’s charity, and $150,000 to the runner up’s charity.

The major reason for these changes is not only to give viewers information and knowledge about these charities but also to get more interest in the shooting stars and skills challenge, which usually take a backseat to the other events.

These changes to the format and scoring of the events are a great step in the right direction. Hopefully by next year there will be more participation from the league’s superstars in the events other than the All-Star game itself.

When it comes to the dunk contest, there’s room for improvement. The event has become more and more dull in the past few years. I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to see LeBron in the dunk contest against some of the league’s best players. Maybe Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony should be added to the mix as well.

Having all of these stars compete in this contest would be exciting and new — something great for the league and the fans.

The skills challenge is something that could be revamped. They could change the event around a little and try to entice all of the best point guards in the league to compete. Last year Tony Parker, Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo participated, which was definitely a nice lineup of point guards.

This year’s participants in the skills challenge are Jrue Holiday, Brandon Knight and Jeff Teague from the East, and Tony Parker, Damian Lilliard, Jeremy Lin from the West. That’s not a bad group of guards, but I would rather to see — if healthy — Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook to name a few.

The 3-point challenge is always exciting, and this year’s participants are all solid shooters. Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Steve Novak are the shooters in the East while Ryan Anderson, Matt Bonner and Stephen Curry are in the West.

Some people might have liked to see Ray Allen in the contest, but this group of guys can all hit the 3 ball and it should be fun to watch. Curry and Novak are shooting 44.9 and 44.4 percent, respectively, while Bonner and Irving are shooting 42.1 and 42.9, respectively. Anderson and George are also having solid years from behind the arc, with Anderson shooting 39.7 percent and George shooting 38.7 from 3.

Sure, it’d be nice to watch Durant and Lebron launch 3s, but the participants in this event are a great group of shooters.

The Shooting Stars is an event that needs more high-profile former players to participate. I’d like to see Jordan or another former great participate with a current player and WBNA player. The four teams for this event aren’t nearly as good as they could be.

Going back to the All-Star game, there could be so much added to make this game even more entertaining. If there could be something to play for like in the MLB, it could make the game even more competitive.

It’s great to see Durant just go off or Kobe leading the team at the end of the game. But if there was some incentive to the game, you’d see some stifling defense and a legitimately competitive game between the best basketball players in the world.

This year’s All-star game has six players on the East that are making their first appearance —  Tyson Chandler, George, Holiday, Irving, Brook Lopez and Joakim Noah — while James Harden is making his first appearance for the West.

I expect another high-scoring game with the only defense being played in the final few minutes of the fourth quarter.

Either way, the NBA All-Star weekend should make for a fun, entertaining few days. But with some slight changes and some more participation in other events from the league’s stars, it could be an even bigger success than it’s already been.