How to make All-Star picks wildly fun

San Francisco Chronicle - - PAGE 2 - Bruce Jenk­ins is a San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle colum­nist. Email: bjenk­ins@sfchron­i­cle.com Twit­ter: @Bruce_Jenk­ins1

The NBA looked a bit stodgy last sea­son when it re­fused to tele­vise the All-Star draft, in which team cap­tains Stephen Curry and LeBron James chose up sides. Fi­nally there is jus­tice — it will be tele­vised this year — but the 3-Dot has a few im­prove­ments to sug­gest.

Com­mis­sioner Adam Sil­ver wants to stage the draft in the last week of Jan­uary, and that’s ter­ri­bly short-sighted. With All-Star week­end still two weeks away, there’s a strong pos­si­bil­ity of draft­ing play­ers who ei­ther will be in­jured or un­avail­able (should they choose to with­draw for per­sonal rea­sons). So why not stage it on game day?

Pic­ture this: With the crowd buzzing — it’s in Char­lotte this sea­son — the play­ers and team cap­tains as­sem­ble on court about an hour be­fore tip-off. The draft will be held right then, com­plete with trashtalk­ing, triumphant ges­tures and righteous protest. Prac­tice? When have you ever seen strat­egy in the All-Star Game? Make this a play­ground-style af­fair. Once the draft is com­plete, the TNT an­a­lysts can have a field day sort­ing out the picks.

There’s also the mat­ter of ap­pro­pri­ate lead­er­ship. If the re­cal­ci­trant Kawhi Leonard is named cap­tain (as the lead­ing vote-get­ter in the East) and isn’t com­fort­able with the draft process, he can pass off the as­sign­ment to some­one who rev­els in the spot­light — say, Kyrie Irv­ing or Joel Em­biid.

If done prop­erly, this thing could be wildly en­ter­tain­ing. And the game it­self would have a fresh­ness, a sense of pure spon­tane­ity, it never had be­fore.

Bring on the re­match

Date on the NBA cal­en­dar sud­denly tak­ing on a neon glow: The War­riors at Mil­wau­kee, Dec. 7. The Bucks knew they were good, they proved it in Thurs­day night’s 23-point rout in Oak­land, and the mag­nif­i­cent Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo pro­claimed “we’ve ar­rived” in a postgame TNT in­ter­view. If the War­riors en­ter the re­match with a healthy Dray­mond Green ,a hot-shoot­ing Curry and full mo­ti­va­tion — as op­posed to the “mind­less in­tent” lamented by head coach Steve Kerr on Thurs­day night — look for an en­tirely dif­fer­ent out­come ... In truth, the Eastern Con­fer­ence has ar­rived. The Bucks, who didn’t es­tab­lish an iden­tity when Ja­son Kidd coached the team, are a thing of beauty un­der Mike Bu­den­holzer.

The Celtics are a work in progress, try­ing to bring War­riors-style co­he­sive­ness to the league’s deep­est ros­ter, and if Irv­ing con­tin­ues his ball-shar­ing ways, they’ll have it to­gether by play­off time. And Toronto is the crit­ics’ choice for the East’s best team at the mo­ment, run­ning a fluid of­fense un­der head coach Nick Nurse and sa­vor­ing Leonard’s al­laround bril­liance ... The West? Plenty of chal­lengers to Golden State, but none look­ing as strong as the East’s top three (make that four if the 76ers pick up a shooter or two). Hous­ton has been sim­ply aw­ful, play­ing mata­dor de­fense and mis­fir­ing so glar­ingly in Thurs­day night’s 98-80 loss to Ok­la­homa City, head coach

Mike D’An­toni called his of­fense “ane­mic.” The Rock­ets have yet to be fully healthy, but as long as Carmelo An­thony plays a prom­i­nent role, they can’t be taken se­ri­ously.

Cal foot­ball coach Justin

Wil­cox has made a huge im­pres­sion on alumni, school ad­min­is­tra­tors, fans, just about ev­ery­one. He brings the price­less ele­ment of de­fense, and with the Bears so short on elite skill play­ers, it’s the only way they can be com­pet­i­tive in the Pac-12. But no­body’s de­fend­ing Wil­cox’s de­ci­sion to ro­tate quar­ter­backs in and out of the Wash­ing­ton State game, a po­ten­tial up­set that slipped away when Bran­don McIl­wain floated a badly over­thrown in­ter­cep­tion. Which wasn’t so un­usual, con­sid­er­ing that McIl­wain was re­spon­si­ble for 11 turnovers over a three­game stretch (losses to Ore­gon, Ari­zona and UCLA), five of them re­turned for touch­downs. “I was scratch­ing my head,” Pac-12 Net­work an­a­lyst

Toby Ger­hart said in stu­dio af­ter watch­ing the high­lights. “Why was McIl­wain in there? In that sit­u­a­tion, I would have had my (pri­mary) quar­ter­back,

Chase Gar­bers, han­dle it. I just didn’t un­der­stand that play.” Gar­bers is nowhere near the cal­iber of quar­ter­back fea­tured through­out the con­fer­ence, but th­ese games should be­long to him, es­pe­cially at cru­cial times ... Mean­while, an air of mys­tery sur­rounds Cal’s start­ing QB last year, Ross Bow­ers, who has been out since the sea­son’s first game with a thumb in­jury. The Bears do not dis­close sea­son-end­ing in­juries, and Wil­cox has said Bow­ers’ ail­ment doesn’t fit that cat­e­gory ... Bet­ter news: Tim DeRuyter,

Cal’s de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, is among the nom­i­nees for the Broyles Award, hon­or­ing the top as­sis­tant coach in the col­le­giate game ... And how about Fresno State, 8-1 un­der for­mer Cal head coach Jeff Ted­ford, land­ing at No. 23 in the lat­est play­off rank­ings, ahead of ev­ery Pac-12 team but Wash­ing­ton State?

Be­cause we can’t get enough

Wil­lie McCovey: Aside from the home run be­lieved to be his long­est — 515 feet in St. Louis in 1966 — he had four other shots es­ti­mated be­tween 500 and 510 feet: 1966 at Can­dle­stick off the Mets’ Jack

Fisher, 1967 in Philadel­phia off Jim Bun­ning, 1969 at Can­dle­stick off the Phillies’ Rick Wise, and 1969 in At­lanta off

Gary Neibauer. Most of the time, you hear 500 feet and fig­ure it’s an ex­ag­ger­a­tion. With McCovey, you thought the es­ti­mates were con­ser­va­tive ... Will Clark won’t make the Hall of Fame when a spe­cial com­mit­tee casts its “To­day’s Game” bal­lots, but Gi­ants fans know this: For at least the first six years of his ca­reer, he had a Coop­er­stown look. I al­ways voted for Clark on the an­nual bal­lot, just for the sake of recog­ni­tion, and I did the same for two other ex­cep­tional left-handed first base­men,

Don Mat­tingly and Keith

Her­nan­dez ... USA To­day’s plugged-in Bob Night­en­gale doesn’t fore­see much sus­pense in the Bryce Harper freeagent bid­ding. He says the Phillies might be the only team will­ing to give Harper $400 mil­lion, “and he will sign with them. Bank on it.”

Allen Bere­zovsky / Getty Images

Stephen Curry (cen­ter) picked an All-Star team in Fe­bru­ary that in­cluded (from left) Joel Em­biid, DeMar DeRozan, James Har­den and Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo.

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