New York — Debuting a new NBA All-Star Game format in which players will pick teams in an effort to energize the event, the league has unveiled the voting schedule for its 2018 showcase.
The NBA had previously announced that the Eastern vs. Western Conference format would be scrapped for the first time, replaced by captains choosing sides in the latest effort to generate more enthusiasm and perhaps competitiveness for the game.
The West has won six of the last seven games, scoring nearly 200 points in the lackluster last two. Following last February’s 192-182 victory in New Orleans, players association president Chris Paul told Commissioner Adam Silver something had to be done to fix the game, and the league has responded with changes to the selection process.
The hope is that the changes better balance the rosters after All-Stars such as Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Jimmy Butler went from East to West over the summer, and trigger buzz about who wants to play with what players.
The starters from each conference with the highest total of fan votes will serve as the captains. They will then pick from the eight remaining starters first, then choose from the pool of players voted as reserves. It could lead to some intriguing scenarios — would LeBron James pick Kyrie Irving if he’s a captain? Would Russell Westbrook choose Kevin Durant?
Unfortunately, the captains’ selections will be conducted before the full rosters are unveiled during a TNT program on Jan. 25.
The league announced Thursday that voting begins on NBA.com and the NBA App on Dec. 21. Voting through all other formats, such as Twitter and Facebook and including Amazon Alexa for the first time, starts on Christmas Day before the annual five-game slate.
There will also be five 2-for-1 days where ballots cast through the NBA App and NBA.com, along with Sina Weibo and Tencent in China, will count twice. Those days are Dec. 31, Jan. 4, Jan. 11, Jan. 12 and Jan. 15 — the day balloting ends.
Continuing a policy instituted last season, players and media will join fans in the voting process. The fan vote accounts for 50 percent, while players and a media panel each account for 25 percent.
That change led to some debate last season when it kept eventual MVP Westbrook out of the starting lineup by a tiebreaker, but the league hopes the changes this season will create even more interest for the game at Staples Center in Los Angeles.