Getty Images

The NBA's entire All-Star weekend is becoming pretty unwatchable. Very few people even know the Rising Stars game is happening on Friday. On Saturday, the skills competition is cringeworthy, and a Dunk Contest that requires a G-League influx to give it enough gas to even get the night across the finish line tells you all you need to know about that ventilator event. And that's all happening before we get to Sunday's big game, which is supposed to be the headliner, but is actually the most boring display of basketball you could ever see from players of this caliber. 

If it wasn't my job to watch that game, I would've changed the channel within five minutes. I can't imagine I'm alone in that sentiment. 

I get it. The NBA season is long enough, and this is supposed to be a week off. The players treat it as such, at least to the degree that they can, while still having to be on location and do all the press and actually put their shoes on for the game. 

Still, it's a joke. The East won the "game" on Sunday by a score of 211-186. The two sides combined to jack up 168 3-pointers. There wasn't one second of competition. 

There were a couple cool moments. Damian Lillard -- who won MVP for no reason other than he was the East player who decided to hoist the most shots-- laced a pair of pull-up half-courters. Tyrese Haliburton drained five 3s in 92 seconds. 


I suppose there's a contingent of fans out there who think anything an NBA basketball player does is cool, but let me tell you, there is nothing cool or fun or entertaining about watching tall guys dunk basketballs on unguarded baskets. Save the tired bounce-pass alley-oops and warm-up 3-pointers. Karl-Anthony Towns scored the dumbest 50 points in basketball history. 

The fact that the West made just 35% of its 3s is actually the most laughable part. Watching guys make 3-pointers against zero defense is boring enough. Watching them clank them from all over the court is more akin to punishment. 

It begs the question: What can the NBA do to fix its All-Star problem? Unfortunately, I don't think much. For most of the game on Sunday night my colleagues and I spent our time dreaming up miracle-pill alternatives to spice up the snoozing game that was playing out in our backgrounds. 

We came up with a 1-on-1 or 3-on-3 tournament, or perhaps each player logging just one quarter -- much like baseball All-Stars getting one at-bat or one inning as a pitcher, rather than asking everyone to commit to a full 48-minute game. 

Here's the problem: You can play 1-on-1, or 3-on-3, or 5-on-5, but unless the players care enough to truly compete, the game is going to stink. The league tried the Elam Ending, which I thought was cool for the end of the game but by the second year nobody was taking that seriously, either. 

I suggested bringing in non-NBA dunkers for the dunk contest, but NBA guys would be too afraid to get shown up by a street hooper. Nobody wants to look dumb, and the only real way to avoid doing that is to compete hard. But nobody wants to do that, either. 

So what we have left is a game that gets played out according to modern basketball's most time-honored unwritten rule: Nobody tries in All-Star games. Nobody plays defense. Nobody gets hurt. And nobody wins. Not the West, not the East, and certainly not the fans, who are being positively patronized by this apathetic product. 

"For me, it's an All-Star Game, so I don't think I will ever look at it like being super competitive," Anthony Edwards said. "It's always fun. I don't know what they can do to make it more competitive. It's a break. I don't think nobody wants to come here and compete."

Edwards' assessment is dead on except for one part: there is nothing fun about what we all just watched. That was dreadful. If the players had any pride, they would give the fans that pay their salaries something worth tuning in for. But the league is soft now. You can hardly get players to play back-to-back nights in regular games. Good luck getting them to go hard in an exhibition. 

Unless you pay them, of course. More money is always the answer, right? A report from The Athletic on Monday suggested that the players -- emboldened by the new pay-for-play In-Season Tournament, which itself was a desperate attempt to make actual regular-season basketball a watchable product -- now want to be paid to give even a semblance of effort in the All-Star game, too. 

From Sam Amick:

But here's the uncomfortable truth: In this season in which the league's inaugural In-Season Tournament paid players of the winning team $500,000 apiece, that may be the only way to fix this problem. This, apparently, is the pay-for-play era. Even if the league already has players topping the $50 million mark in annual salary and a seven-figure minimum ($1.1 million).

As one league source shared afterward, when the players had talked privately about why they'd chosen this tough-to-watch style of play, the IST set the kind of precedent that won't be forgotten anytime soon.

As calculated by my number-crunching colleague, Sam Quinn, the 10 starters in Sunday's All-Star game are earning a combined $378.6 million this season. Again, that's just the starters. There were 24 total All-Stars. These dudes are paid a collective salary approaching a billion dollars this season alone and now they have to be paid even more for the inconvenience of playing a real basketball game for the fans who make those salaries possible in the first place? 

The right answer might be scrapping All-Star week altogether. Or just do the skills competitions, preferably coming up with imaginative ways to spice those up (Steph vs. Sabrina was a great start). Name the All-Stars for the recognition, but forget the actual game. Build this extra week into the regular season, stretching the schedule enough to eliminate the majority of back to backs, if not all of them. 

At least then we could perhaps ratchet up the regular-season product, which is a priority for the league and should continue to be. 

That said, it ain't happening. The NBA All-Star Game makes too much money and isn't going anywhere. Next year, we're all going to be sitting here watching this same-old game talking about how stupid it is that nobody tries or cares. 

Not even gambling can make this thing fun. It's just the way it is. It's an unwatchable product that is also, as far as I can imagine, unfixable. Unless these players suddenly decide to accept the responsibility they have, as extremely well-paid entertainers, to do their job for the fans that, as I said, pay their salaries. 

Don't hold your breath.