NBA announces dramatic changes to All-Star Game format: No more East vs. West

Eastern Conference forward Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks over Western Conference guard Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors in the 2017 NBA All-Star Game at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Larry W. Smith/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports
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LeBron James and Kevin Durant – despite playing in different conferences – on the same All-Star team? That’s a possibility under the new NBA All-Star Game format.

Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving playing on the same All-Star team? Sure, why not.

In an attempt to revitalize the NBA All-Star Game, there will be no Eastern Conference vs. the Western Conference at the 2018 All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Instead, two captains — the leading fan vote-getter from the East and leading fan vote-getter from the West — will select players for their squad regardless of conference affiliation. The captains will select from a pool of 22 other All-Stars. In total, there will still be 12 All-Stars from each conference. 

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The NBA and National Basketball Players Association announced the new format on Tuesday, and the Los Angeles contest on Feb. 18 will be the first NBA All-Star Game that is not East vs. West.

“I’m thrilled with what the players and the league have done to improve the All-Star Game, which has been a priority for all of us,” NBPA president and Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul said in a statement.  “We’re looking forward to putting on an entertaining show in L.A.”

The winner will also donate to a Los Angeles-based or national charity where donations can help the Los Angeles area.

The new format is an attempt to bring back some competitiveness to the NBA’s February showcase that has devolved into a dunk contest, layup drill and three-point shootout. The winning team scored 192 points in the 2017 game and 196 in the 2016 game.

The games were absent of any competitiveness. Not that the All-Star game needs to be played with the same intensity as a Game 7, but both players and the league recognized changed was necessary.

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Paul, a nine-time All-Star, watched last year’s game from home, and the day after the game, he reached out to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expressing need for a change to the game.

Paul made sure NBPA executive director Michele Roberts got involved, and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, the president of the league’s labor relations committee, fostered further discussion.

This was a player-driven answer, a person familiar with the new format told USA TODAY Sports. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the changes.

“We’re excited about the new All-Star format and appreciate the players’ willingness to try something new,” NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell said in a statement.

Those voted starters by the fans, media and players will be selected first so that they remain starters in the game and then the reserves will be selected by the two captains.

Specific details about the All-Star player draft will be determined later. 

The process of selecting the All-Stars remains the same. Starters – two guards and three frontcourt players per conference – will be chosen by a combination of fans (50% of the vote), players (25%) and media (25%). Coaches will select the reserves – two guards, three frontcourt players and two players from any position.

That is just one of the many changes aimed at improving the 2017-18 season. Also:

  • The number of timeouts per game has been reduced to 14 from 16, and during the last three minutes of the game, teams will be allowed just two timeouts instead of the three per team under the previous rule.
  • Back-to-backs per team have been reduced for the third consecutive season to just 14.9 back-to-backs per team this season, and the league has eliminated scenarios in which teams play four games in five days.
  • Teams are prohibited from resting healthy players in high-profile national TV games, and teams are not supposed to rest multiple healthy players for the same game or rest healthy players on the road.
  • Point of education for referees this season include continuation calls, especially perimeter jump shots in which screens are involved.
  • The trade deadline is Feb. 8 – before the All-Star game instead of after so teams don’t have to worry about disruptions to the roster following the All-Star break.

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter.