Jeff Van Gundy has an idea on how to fix the NBA All-Star Game.
His plan: Eliminate it.
Van Gundy, the former NBA coach and now longtime television commentator for ABC and ESPN, said what he’s seeing now from the game is embarrassing and “a bastardization of the game that is beautiful to watch.” The teams picked by captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo combined to attempt a record 167 3-pointers in Sunday night’s game — and 96 of the 134 field goals in the game came off either 3s or dunks.
“You can be a Division III player like myself and be All-Star MVP,” Van Gundy said. “All you have to do is drive in and shoot a layup.”
Van Gundy coached in the 2000 All-Star game, his Eastern Conference team falling to Phil Jackson and the Western Conference 137-126. There was no shortage of alley-oops tried in that game, though Tim Duncan, Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal spent plenty of time defending the rim against those lobs as well.
“I would name All-Stars, I would have All-Star weekend, they have all these things, introduce them … the players are great, they should be applauded,” Van Gundy said this week, while preparing to coach USA Basketball’s team picked for the final two games of qualifying for this summer’s FIBA World Cup in China. “But to take this game and shoot 160 3s, it’s an embarrassment. It’s an embarrassment.”
Van Gundy said he doesn’t need to see a game with Game 7, playoff-level intensity.
He just wants to see some effort.
“The equivalent would be like Major League Baseball, a guy hits the ball, you throw it to him at 70 mph because you’re not trying,” Van Gundy said. “And then you hit it and no one chases it and you just let a guy circle and score and you have unlimited runs. You’ve got to try.”
Players, including James and National Basketball Players Association President Chris Paul, along with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver all said after the 192-182 game two years ago that the All-Star game had to be more competitive.
“Let’s just say it: They don’t want to play,” Van Gundy said. “Adam said, ‘It’s got to be fixed.’ There’s nothing fixed.”
Last year went down to the wire, a 148-145 game that was well received. This year’s 178-164 game was won by James’ Team LeBron, which trailed by 20 points in the second half before rallying — largely behind the 3-pointer. James’ team took 65 shots in the second half, and 49 of those were 3-point tries.
And players this year didn’t seem to mind the way the game unfolded.
“It’s just about having fun,” Oklahoma City’s Paul George said Sunday night. “At the end of the day, it’s for the fans. It’s just to have fun.”