The 2015 NBA All-Star Weekend will be from February 12 to 15 in New York City. Most of the early weekend festivities will be held at Barclays Center, the home arena of the Brooklyn Nets, while the Celebrity game and the main All-Star Game itself will be held at Madison Square Garden, where the New York Knicks and Liberty play.
The WNBA and the D-League have been a regular part of NBA All-Star Weekend, as players have taken part in various festivities over the years. Since 2007, the D-League's All-Star Game has been held at the same city, though not the same arena as the NBA's All-Star Game. But don't expect a WNBA All-Star Game in the winter, because the season is held during the summer.
How did the W fare at 2014 NBA AllStar Weekend?
To this point, WNBA players have been incorporated into NBA All-Star Weekend by taking part in events like community service, playing in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game -- which is really a novelty game to begin with, and taking part in the Shooting Stars contest on All-Star Saturday Night which happens to be the first part of that event.
This year's schedule is out, and it's more of the same. Expect to see WNBA players doing community service and making cameos only during the Celebrity Game and Saturday Night's Shooting Stars contest. While these events aren't bad to be part of, the WNBA players who are part of NBA All-Star Weekend aren't used as effectively as they could or should be.
Most WNBA players are overseas, which makes it hard for the league to put its best foot forward during an otherwise big weekend in the basketball world. But putting that aside, what kinds of new events could be better in highlighting their skills? If I could change the schedule myself with a magic wand and for future seasons, this is what I would do:
1. Each WNBA team must bring one player to participate in NBA All-Star Weekend activities.
Each WNBA team needs to have one player to represent them for NBA All-Star Weekend, which allows for 12 players to represent the league. It's up to each team to invite whoever they want, but the player who each team selects needs to be some combination of the following:
Be the "franchise player" or one of the better overall players on the team
Be a player who has a strong national profile to a non-women's basketball fan audience
Have a game that is "highlight" friendly (great shooter, blocker, crossover dribbler, etc.)
The player should be a WNBA All-Star herself
I will share which 12 players I would invite from each team in a later post. But in the meantime, feel free to say who you would invite from each team to in the comments below.
As expected, the biggest logistical hurdle to make this happen is overseas play. At the same time, no WNBA team wants to be sending in the 12th man on the roster to a major event or send no one. Therefore, arrangements can be made to accommodate this months in advance when the season ends. Each WNBA player who is invited will do the community service events and at a minimum, take part in the next suggestion I have below.
2. Add a co-ed/mixed basketball game that features NBA All-Star and the invited WNBA players on Friday night.
In today's world of professional basketball, many NBA and WNBA players are friends with each other, and in some cases, more than that. It's inevitable once you take into account that many of the top college basketball programs in men's basketball also have strong women's programs, and vice versa.
This game would be done in an East vs. West format on Friday night of All-Star Weekend. Each team will have 12 players, six NBA players who are All-Stars that year, along with six of the WNBA players. The WNBA players who play on Eastern Conference teams will remain play on this Eastern Conference co-ed team, and the same goes for Western Conference players. The game would be 40 minutes long, with 10 minute quarters, and there will be rules so that there has to be two or three WNBA players on the floor at all times, which is often the case in co-ed games.
Given that the All-Star Celebrity Game is typically held on a Friday night, that game can be put off until Saturday early afternoon, because the NBA All-Stars are generally not a part of this game, and there are no other major events at that time. Timewise, the game can be held before the Rising Stars Challenge, which is an exhibition game that features top NBA rookies and sophomores.
3. Include WNBA players in the Three Point Shooting Contest.
The WNBA's three point line is at the FIBA distance of 6.75 meters (22 feet and 1.75 inches) away from the basket, except at the sidelines, where the line is no less than 3 feet away. This line is not quite as far away, but still close to the NBA's line of 23 feet and 9 inches with no less than 3 feet away from the sidelines.
Over the past couple WNBA seasons, we've seen that players are more than able to make NBA-range threes, and the shot charts we've shown you corroborate that. Therefore, let's add two WNBA players, one from each conference to the three point shooting contest.
Currently, eight NBA players, four from each conference take part in this contest. Under this new format, ten total players will be in the Three Point Shooting Contest, with two five-player teams (four NBA players, one WNBA player), one for each conference.
I won't count against a WNBA player from winning this to be honest. Hell, the final shootout could be between two WNBA players.
4. Make the Skills Challenge a relay duo that features NBA and WNBA players.
The current Skills Challenge format involves two NBA players who perform a combination of shooting, passing and dribbling drills in a relay format. There are four relay duos, two from each conference.
I haven't been a big fan of the Skills Challenge in general, but maybe this can be tweaked by having four relay duos which have one NBA player and one WNBA player. This would raise positive awareness for the W if their players do well in a contest when all eyes would be on them for some time. Furthermore, since many WNBA teams are in the same city as an NBA team, duos which represent one city should be formed if there is a good fit between the players on the NBA and WNBA teams in those cities.
How could one of these relay duos look? For example, Washington Wizards guard John Wall would represent one of the Eastern Conference's relay duos. Washington Mystics guard Bria Hartley would be Wall's teammate in the challenge and this duo will be fun to watch.
Crap, did I give a "sneak preview" of one of my prospective WNBA invitees for that aforementioned later post? But anyway, that's just one possible duo you could see in the Skills Challenge.
It's great to see that WNBA players participate in NBA All-Star Weekend, but I just don't feel that they are being highlighted in the best way possible. Do you have any suggestions on what else NBA All-Star Weekend could do to better highlight the WNBA? Sound off in the comments below.