The National Basketball Association and the NBA Players Association have agreed to televise the playground-style draft in which two captains will select their squads for the 2019 All-Star Game in Charlotte, North Carolina, according to two people familiar with the plans.
A firm date and specific format for the televised draft has not yet been finalized, but Jan. 30 and 31 have emerged as two potential targets for a TNT broadcast, according to the people, who were not authorized to discuss the plans publicly. The schedule availability of the two captains, once they are identified through fan balloting, is among the variables needed to lock in the broadcast specifics.
Last year’s draft, conducted by conference call with the East’s leading vote-getter, LeBron James (then of the Cleveland Cavaliers), and the West’s, Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, took place on Jan. 25.
Concerned that the All-Star Game was getting stale and lacking competitive fire, league officials introduced a new format last season. Fans are still asked to choose the game’s starters from the Eastern and Western conferences, but instead of dividing the teams by region, the leading vote-getter in each conference gets to pick any 11 All-Stars to be on his squad. The one constraint is that each captain’s starting lineup must be chosen from the remaining pool of eight All-Stars who fans selected, as opposed to the group of 14 reserves, who are picked by NBA coaches.
“It was fantasy basketball for us,” James said Wednesday after the Los Angeles Lakers’ morning shootaround as he spoke to local reporters about the draft he and Curry conducted last January.
Many of their selections ultimately leaked, but the league was criticized — even by some of the All-Stars — for not making the whole process more transparent. The Times reported in January that the captains-pick-their-teams format was initially conceived with the full intention to televise the selections, but pushback from the union scuttled those plans.
The resistance was largely tied to fears of embarrassing the players selected last, or putting captains in a position to upset current teammates by passing over them. But numerous All-Stars said they were prepared to handle whatever touchy scenarios arose.
After the 2018 All-Star Game, in which Team LeBron claimed a 148-145 victory over Team Stephen at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN Radio: “When we sat with the union and we came up with this format, we all agreed, let’s not turn something that’s 100 percent positive into a potential negative to any player.
“But then, maybe we’re overly conservative because then we came out of there, and the players were: ‘We can take it. We’re All-Stars. Let’s have a draft.’ So it sounds like we’re going to have a televised draft next year.”
San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan, then a member of the Toronto Raptors, added at the time: “Televise it. Give the people what they want to see. I think everybody wants to see it. At the end of the day, every single person that gets picked, you are an All-Star, so it doesn’t matter where you really go, so I think televise it.”
Curry came away so pleased with the new setup that he said he hoped to be a captain again this season, noting that he spent his spent his formative years as a young player in Charlotte, host city for the 2019 All-Star Game. But that will require Curry to beat James in fan balloting now that James resides in the same conference.
Once the captains and the players who make up the All-Star selection pool are identified in January, much of the external guesswork that this new format generates will inevitably focus on who gets selected last.
The last pick in the inaugural All-Star draft came down to the San Antonio forward LaMarcus Aldridge and the Boston big man Al Horford. James chose Aldridge, leaving Horford for Curry. But Horford voiced no protest when the voting results predictably leaked to the media, despite the league’s best efforts to keep all the selections secret.
“It’s fine,” Horford said, adding that he “would encourage” that the draft be televised in the future.
“Guys have to understand something,” Horford said. “Just because — I mean, you’re being picked last out of 24 players, right? Twenty-four elite players that are All-Stars. People are always going to talk whether you deserve to be here, or you do not deserve to be here. At the end of the day, we’re just having fun with it.
“It really reminds me of back in the day when you were in the schoolyard and you were picking teams. Maybe you would have taken it a little harder then but now? Come on.”