Kobe Bryant will be focus of NBA All Star Game

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The NBA announced a major format change for this year’s All-Star Game designed to honor the late Kobe Bryant and spice up the Feb. 16 contest, which will be played in Chicago.

The most common reaction to it was genuine bewilderment. While better than a shrug, it’s not ideal to see your tweak go way over most people’s heads, inspiring a resounding collective “huh?”

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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has made it a mission to improve the league’s midseason showcase, acknowledging concerns over a lack of defense ruining the watchability factor. In an attempt to counter that, the game’s first three quarters will all count as separate mini-games that should hopefully lead to players working hard throughout. Each quarter is worth $100,000, which will then be donated by the winning team to the Chicago charity of their choice.

The combined score of the three quarters will be added to open the fourth and we’ll get a target score that will need to be reached to close out the contest. To honor Bryant, the team that has the lead will then need 24 points to win the game.

If Team LeBron is up on Team Giannis 121-115 through the first three quarters, the game would end when either team arrives at 145 points. That takes overtime off the table and means the final quarter will be untimed. The game can end on a walk-off free throw.

All of these things will take some getting used to, but considering the All-Star Game is supposed to be a show of an exhibition game, there’s nothing wrong with experimenting. Not only is it for a good cause, but it will honor Bryant and the other eight victims of the Jan. 26 helicopter crash that shook the basketball world.

James and his teammates will wear No. 2 in honor of Bryant’s daughter Gianna, while Giannis Antetokounmpo’s squad will all wear No. 24. Both teams will sport patches honoring all nine victims, so this contest will definitely have a melancholy feel to it and the weekend is expected to be part-celebration and part-memorial.

In that light, give this new format an honest chance. You had to add the scores up after they reset in the Jeopardy! “Greatest of All-Time” tournament too and we didn’t hear the intellectual crowd complaining about that. Keep an open mind. Shoutout, James Holzhauer.

The format is undeniably confusing but may indeed lead to a more competitive brand of basketball. According to Jay Rood, chief risk officer of Bet.Works, the changes may spice up betting on the All-Star Game.

“It puts more focus on the quarters, so it might lead to increased action,” said Rood, a Sports Betting Hall of Famer and industry pioneer. “I don’t think we will offer anything new as a result of the format, but may add a wrinkle or two this year. I think we will stay away from any time props and I have not offered up the Dunk Contest as it is traditionally not allowed in Nevada, but we will see what the jurisdictions will allow and form our offering off of that.”

The target score idea isn’t new and has been used to great acclaim in the Basketball Tournament, a nationally televised single-elimination $1 million tourney. If games are tight, you can really see some desperate play down the stretch and are guaranteed to watch the final bucket result in a win.

We’ll see what kind of action becomes available on props like whether a free throw closes the NBA All-Star Game out, or for that matter a 3-pointer, but Rood anticipates that there will be bettors looking to try and anticipate what these changes may ultimately produce on the floor.

“While I’m not sure many people will be aware of the change until the game,” said Rood, “sharp players will be looking for any angle to exploit in their favor. I’d think player props will be hit due to the unknown impact of the fourth quarter.”

Blindly betting the ‘over’ on the total isn’t recommended this year but we will get a total likely to feature a three-quarter average with a fixed amount of roughly 45 on what we can anticipate for the final quarter. It’s going to take a little thinking outside the box, but the All-Star Game will still be booked and bet on if you so desire.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we get better action on the court because of the tweaks, not to mention the desire to honor all of the victims of a tragedy that claimed the life of someone who played hero and mentor to so many of these guys.

Saturday

Bucks at Magic: We love Milwaukee to hammer Orlando. The Bucks have already beaten the Magic by double-digits twice this season, doing so once without Antetokounmpo. Their length and ability to connect on 3-pointers while Orlando struggles to score should produce another lopsided loss despite being at home. Milwaukee should be favored by 5-6 points. BUCKS

Clippers at Timberwolves: We expect the Clippers to do the same in Minnesota as Saturday night road favorites. L.A. will be laying closer to nine points against the Timberwolves but should feast on a team that is likely to undergo changes at the trade deadline and hasn’t put enough around Karl-Anthony Towns to keep from getting blown out. CLIPPERS

Sunday

Heat at Trail Blazers: You can expect a lot of scoring in Portland in this contest. Damian Lillard has been the NBA’s best player over the past few weeks, but the Heat share the ball better than anyone and should take apart the Trail Blazers’ suspect defense. Look for the Over to come in despite a total hovering around 230. OVER

Last week: 2-1

Season: 24-17-1

About the Author

Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia has been a national sportswriter for nearly two decades and has covered NBA and college basketball as a columnist, analyst, handicapper, and bracketologist for CBS Sports, Pro Basketball News, and numerous other sites.

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