Weekly Countdown: The league's postseason format is OK as it is
The argument is worthy in the sense that Golden State (48 wins) and Portland (41) from the West would qualify for the playoffs at the expense of losing teams Philadelphia (40) and Atlanta (37), the current Nos. 7 and 8 seeds in the East, respectively.
The main problem has to do with regular-season scheduling. Each team currently plays 52 games within its conference and 30 interconference games. If the argument is to make the postseason more fair, then it would be unfair to group all of the entrants into one pot based on different schedules.
If this is about being fair, then the regular-season schedule would need to be weighted evenly so that every team would play an equal number of games against opponents from both conferences. This would ruin any hope of creating divisional or regional rivalries while making the travel more onerous.
If anything needs to be fixed, it isn't the playoffs. The NBA's weakness is the five-and-a-half-month regular season. It's hard enough for fans and players to pay full attention to all 82 games, and anything that decreases interest in the regular season -- such as overhauling the schedule without regard to conference affiliation -- would be an act of self-immolation.
No. 1 Boston vs. No. 8 Atlanta
No. 1 L.A. Lakers vs. No. 8 Denver
If the 16 winningest teams were included (despite the wide disparity in their schedules), below is how the first round would line up. (I've arbitrarily granted Portland the tiebreaker over Toronto, two 41-41 teams, based on the Blazers' residence in the superior West.) I've noted whether each series in this format is a better or worse matchup involving the higher-seeded team.
No. 1 Boston vs. No. 16 Toronto ... better
Toronto would be a better opponent for the Celtics than Atlanta, Portland would provide a better test for the Pistons than Philadelphia (though the 76ers have created interest in that series), and I would rather see Denver instead of Utah against the Rockets.
But I say the new opponents for the Lakers, Hornets, Spurs, Suns and Jazz would provide worse matchups than those teams are facing today. I would rather see San Antonio vs. Phoenix than either Spurs-Warriors or Suns-Mavericks; likewise, is Orlando-Toronto more competitive than Celtics-Raptors or Jazz-Magic?
The issue for the NBA is not to make its playoffs more fair, because by current standards it is already the truest test in American team sports. But audiences are not impressed by predictability. They prefer upsets, underdogs and March Madness.
If it were up to me, every NBA series would be best-of-five -- maybe even best-of-three -- which would increase the importance of each game and the unpredictability of each series. But the NBA has gone the other way by increasing the opening round from best-of-five to best-of-seven because teams need the extra cash.
In which case the current format is probably as good as we can hope for. I like the idea of two championship contenders -- the Spurs and Suns -- meeting in the first round, and I like the young Hornets testing themselves against a recent NBA finalist from Dallas that won 67 games last season. The most qualified teams usually advance through the playoffs because that's how the best-of-seven format works in the NBA; in the meantime, the opening round needs to be made as compelling as possible, and at least the system has provided a few good series this year.
(P.S. Let's hear no talk of how the lottery needs to be changed to prevent bad teams from tanking. No matter how it is adjusted, there will always be bubble teams willing to lose games this year in hopes of improving their roster for the future.)
While we're at it, I'm also against reseeding after each round. If a bottom-dweller happens to win by upset, then it shouldn't be penalized by being matched against the next-highest seed. People like underdogs, and the surprise winners should be given a fighting chance to keep playing in a postseason format that is heavily weighted against them already.
The reason I quoted Cuban's objections was because they rang true. The fans in Oklahoma will support their new team, but even so this is a bad move in all sorts of ways. The NBA invested 41 years in a market that has grown in that time to become one of our country's great cities, and that sacrifice of Seattle cannot be equal to whatever gains may be realized in Oklahoma City.
I'll repeat my thoughts for whatever they are worth. After talking to a number of people involved in this mess dating back to the previous ownership group of Seattle's own
From Stern's perspective, I can see that he rationalizes this move as making the best of what became an unwinnable situation for the Sonics in Seattle. For years, the franchise has been unable to negotiate an acceptable lease and arena deal.
But I also believe that a crucial part of the NBA's rationale is that Bennett paid an exorbitant $350 million for the team, which is a big deal to Stern. His business depends on driving up the value of franchises, and if he were to force Bennett to work out a deal to stay in Seattle, then it would create a chilling effect for future team sales. Prospective owners might not be so enthusiastic about spending big for the privilege of joining a league that does not back those owners. Stern had to choose from a series of bad options, and he chose to support his new owner while arguing that a new arena deal might not be available in Seattle under any circumstances.
While the environment in Seattle might be different a decade from now, it's hard to imagine today any kind of public groundswell to import a new team -- and build a new taxpayer-funded arena -- to replace the Sonics. The people in Seattle feel betrayed by the NBA, and that resentment is going to grow as the Sonics reestablish themselves in Oklahoma. Four decades of goodwill will be turned upside down, and this new trend will be hard for the NBA to reverse.
It might be true that overexposure might be a cause of these injuries, though most athletes who reach the NBA have grown up playing an awful lot of basketball whether in the 1950s or the 2000s. And, in the old days, the conditions probably weren't as hospitable as now.
"He also believed that you need to break in new shoes instead of wearing them brand new in the game,'' Twiss said. "And also that white shoes got dirty too fast.''
Thus the Celtics' tradition of black sneakers ... though I think now we're drifting from the original question.
As I said at the time, it's especially difficult to pick an All-Defensive point guard because the rules changed a few years ago to prevent defenders from touching opponents on the perimeter. Few point guards excel defensively in this new environment.
That's why I deferred to the opinions of a head coach, a league executive and an advance scout. Each of these guys is among the most respected in his field, and two of them named Kidd as the best defensive point guard; the scout rated Kidd slightly behind Utah's
The key decision will be made by
Golden State also needs to keep Ellis and Biedrins. The Warriors are committed to $47.8 million next season (including Davis's guaranteed $17.8 million, but not including any draft picks they may add). Coach
No matter what happens in this series, the Wizards absolutely must re-sign Arenas. They can decide to trade him later if the right deal comes up, but no team can afford the loss of so talented a star with nothing in return. That franchise is weaker without Arenas.
The Idaho Stampede beat the Austin Toros 90-89 on Thursday to even the Finals at 1-1, with the winner-take-all game set for Friday in Boise.
"He seems to anticipate two or three plays in advance,'' said a scout who closely follows the D-League. "He has always been able to motivate his teammates to elevate their games.''
Another future NBA coach may be
"He has the physical skills to excel,'' the scout said. "He has improved his understanding of the NBA game while learning to be more aggressive at both ends of the floor. Early in the season, he struggled to stay out of foul trouble; now he has improved his footwork and defensive ability to where he can rebound and block or contest shots without getting into foul trouble. He needs to develop a consistent low-post game and a go-to move, and he needs to work on his mid-range jumper so he can step out and be a threat from 12 to 15 feet.''
The scout likes three other prospects from Idaho in the Finals: Undersized but skilled former Gonzaga power forward