In one of the weirder live televised events this side of whenever the last time Carter Page went on All in With Chris Hayes, LeBron James and Steph Curry went on TNT on Thursday to reveal the teams they had selected for the rejiggered NBA All-Star Game. The event had long resembled the world’s greatest pickup game; now it would be constructed like one.
LeBron and Steph, picking some of the greatest athletes in the world—personal preferences would be revealed and new fractures would appear. What a spectacle, right? But for something to be a spectacle, it needs to be seen, and this draft took place behind closed doors, over a conference call.
This is one of the weirder NBA stories in a while. We know when Kevin Love is sick, we know when Jimmy Butler clowns Karl-Anthony Towns, but we don’t know the order the All-Star teams were picked in. This is made all the more strange because WE’RE TALKING ABOUT AN ADVERTISEMENT FOR THE NBA. They weren’t hashing out a new collective bargaining agreement, they were having a real-life fantasy draft. And they didn’t televise it.
Why? According to an ESPN report on the debacle (oh, and it was a debacle—we’re getting to that), the NBA Players Association said in a statement that “[i]t was the absence of a consensus by prospective players likely to be affected that led to” the draft not being broadcast. I am calling this the Kevin Love Rule. Love has been at the center of the recent turmoil in Cleveland. He is, frankly, a fringe All-Star. Maybe he didn’t want to be Mr. Irrelevant on national television. Maybe he vetoed the broadcast.
Is that unfair to Kevin Love? Is that unfounded speculation? The league could stop people like me from making assumptions like that by TELEVISING THE DAMN DRAFT.
An omerta-level vow of silence was taken by Curry and James to not reveal at what point in the draft any of the players were picked. This led to an excruciating piece of television that would have been funny if it wasn’t so totally unnecessary: TNT’s Ernie Johnson, who either wasn’t prepped that James and Curry were going to keep their picks to themselves or didn’t care that they would, repeatedly asked the two captains who they picked, only to get shut down by his subjects. It was, in the words of one of my colleagues, “the inverse of whatever cool and interesting is.”
I cannot stress how weird this was: Johnson asking a question over and over, while LeBron and Steph light-heartedly but really adamantly deflected. Does Kevin Love really loom this large? Does Damian Lillard? Are the bylaws of the NBPA so complex that they couldn’t be overruled? They’re NBA ALL-STARS, not kids wearing orthopedic shoes in eighth grade. Take one for the team!
Look, the NBA All-Star Game is supposed to be fun. The players don’t take it seriously, and the fans watch for just the alley-oops. Conference supremacy doesn’t matter, and teams don’t get home court based on who wins the midseason exhibition. It has one purpose: entertainment.
The league tried to do something interesting and different and fun, and then somehow screwed it up in the presentation. I wouldn’t care if I hadn’t been begged to care in the first place. Is there a worse feeling than that? (Don’t answer that.)
As for the teams, LeBron has a better squad, IMO. He also took all the air out of the beef/drama story line by selecting his former teammate Kyrie Irving, his current teammate (for now) Kevin Love, and warring former teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. He also has the Pelicans’ frontcourt and the Wizards’ backcourt. I’d love to find out how he arrived at this roster, but we’ll never know. Until someone leaks it.