NEW ORLEANS The first half of a typical NBA All-Star Game, Jazz All-Star Carlos Boozer concedes, is "more fun and showcase."
"I think the second half becomes more competitive," said Boozer, who will play for the Western Conference in tonight's TNT-televised affair.
Western Conference coach Byron Scott, also head coach of the New Orleans Hornets, feels similarly.
"They're gonna mess around for a half or so," Scott said of the All-Stars, "but when the game is tight and it's winning time, they start playing.
"They're gonna try to put on a show. That's what this is all about: entertaining," he added. "But the last quarter, they all look at the clock and look at the score and it's all about trying to win."
Surely, though, there must be some way to make the league's showcase game more intriguing.
Denver All-Star guard Allen Iverson, for one, isn't so sure.
"I don't think there is anything you can do," he said. "It's up to the players ... You have to want to win."
A host of ideas, nevertheless, were bandied about Friday, when All-Stars from the Eastern Conference and the West met with media members.
An international-style game America vs. the World is one frequently suggested.
What about going with a playground-style pickup game, with coaches taking turns picking from the league's best 24 players irrespective of conference?
"That would be fun," Scott laughed. "That would be unusual. That would be pretty good."
Then there's money.
The almighty American dollar, even if it is drastically depressed these days.
As is stands now, each member of the winning team gets $35,000 and each from the losing side gets $15,000.
Scott thinks that should be enough.
"How much can you raise it to?" he asked. "These guys make $9 (million), $10 (million), $12 million a year.
"To be honest with you," Scott added, "$35,000 is probably good enough, because you've got a bunch of guys that are very competitive. ... If you see them on buses, on trips, they're playing cards. There could be $10 involved. They want to win."
One can argue that NBA Reality 2008, however, suggests otherwise.
Today, $35,000 is NBA chump change.
Doesn't even buy a decent Rolex.
Tip money, once taxes and posse payroll are deducted.
So why not, one reporter suggested in answering Scott's question, make the pool $12 million? With all of its many and decidedly lucrative TV and merchandising contracts, the league office surely has it to spare. Each member of the 12-player winning club would get $1 million, winner take all.
"If a situation like that came up," Boozer, who already is making more than $11.5 million this season, said with a wide smile, "I think it would be very, very competitive."
Better yet, another reporter thought, why not have players put up their own dough say $50,000 apiece and have them play knowing their money is where their mouth is?
Even risking one's own hard-earned cold cash, though, may not be enough.
Fancy cars are Cleveland All-Star LeBron James' idea.
Or maybe a new crib would do the trick.
"Give away a Maybach, a Phantom, some jet hours, a house," King James joked. "Everybody loves a free Maybach, a free Benz or Rolls-Royce. We'll play hard for that.
"You know," he added, "the money, that doesn't matter. We don't need money. We have money. A house, a car ..."
Now you're talking.
A more grounded and wholesome option, though, may simply be playing the old-fashioned way.
"I like East and West," Boozer said.
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