NBA commissioner Adam Silver is a brilliant individual. There have been commissioners of major sports leagues that may have wielded greater power or had a larger-than-life reputation but Silver is among the best of all-time. And like most of the greats, he has ambitions to leave his imprint on basketball.
During his recent media availability during the NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, he talked about his desire for the league to revamp their current playoff format.
“You also would like to have a format where your two best teams are ultimately going to meet in the Finals,” Silver said. “You could have a situation where the top two teams in the league are meeting in the conference finals or somewhere else. So we’re going to continue to look at that. It’s still my hope that we’re going to figure out ways.”
There have been calls from NBA fans to seed teams 1-16 based purely on record, regardless of conference affiliation to account for the competitive imbalance between the Eastern and Western Conferences currently. The format that Silver said he envisions is to take the best eight teams from each conference as they currently do but to seed those 16 teams 1-16, thus allowing for a Houston Rockets-Golden State Warriors NBA Finals rather than seeing those two teams squaring up in the Western Conference Finals. Make no mistake that this would be a move for the NBA to garner better TV ratings and more cash.
The old adage is “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Silver is apparently working behind the scenes and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a proposal voted on by NBA owners in the relatively near future regarding such reform. He made it extremely clear over the weekend that this radical proposal is in the early stages and no vote is imminent but that it is on the minds of the people at NBA headquarters.
“[It] is something that’s gotten serious attention — not just recently, but over the last few years at the league office,” explained Silver.
Now, there are a number of issues with such a proposal, chief among them being balancing the NBA schedule. This is where I would ask that Adam Silver and the rest of the NBA be bold and make a number of changes that I believe would invigorate NBA fans.
First, with regards to balancing the regular season schedule, my initial proposal is for the NBA to speed up the timeline regarding league expansion. Bring back the Seattle Supersonics and follow the NFL’s lead and put an expansion team in Las Vegas. These are two prime basketball markets and would also help with TV windows, both being in the pacific timezone.
Then with 32 franchises in the NBA, four team divisions should be established once again using the NFL blueprint. It creates natural regional rivalries and allows for easier scheduling in the next move on my list of proposals.
Next up is for the NBA to adopt a 68 game regular season schedule, with each division playing four games against each team’s inter-divisional rivals (12 games total – two home, two away) and 56 games (home-and-home format) with the other 28 teams in the league. Carving off 14 regular season games allows for better spacing of games to avoid back-to-backs and the like.
Now, with that lighter regular season slate, next up is for the NBA move back the start of the regular season to Christmas Day. For most NBA fans, the pseudo-start date of the season is December 25 because college football and the NFL dominate sports fans’ consciousness in the United States throughout the fall.
Start the regular season December 25 with the usual showcase games, have the regular season extend into late May (ending by Memorial Day) with the NBA Playoffs and Finals being contested in June and July, finishing just as fall camp for college football and NFL training camps begin to take over the headlines once again.
This radical shift in the schedule would likely require college basketball to get on board and also move their season back in the calendar as well, but that should already be on the NCAA’s radar. Have college basketball start their season during Christmas Break for the colleges and carry their season into May. “May Madness” works just as well as “March Madness”. Sports fans are adaptable.
This would allow for NBA Draft workouts to take place in the summer months while the playoffs are ongoing and the NBA Draft to take place shortly after the NBA Finals conclude in late July.
Now, after wading through league expansion, shortening the regular season and shifting the league calendar, the proposal Commissioner Silver is championing comes up. Regarding seeding the NBA Playoffs 1-16 is the potential for long distance travel in the first and second rounds. Commissioner Silver weighed in on this concern during his comments over the weekend.
“Maybe ultimately you have to add even more days to the season to spread it out a little bit more to deal with the travel,” Silver said. “Maybe air travel will get better. All things we’ll keep looking at.”
My solution for absolving the travel issue, in part, is re-instituting the old five game series in the first round. The top-seeded teams should dispatch of their first round opponents with relative ease and there’s no need to extend these series. Also move the first round to to a 2-2-1 series format, thus only requiring a team like Golden State to travel to, say, Miami once and lessening the stress on the players with the aforementioned potential for cross-country travel.
In the second round of the playoffs, I propose adopting the 2-3-2 series format, allowing for just one trip for a team across the country. After lessening the travel needed the early stages of the playoffs, the NBA would revert back to the 2-2-1-1-1 series format for the semifinals and finals, travel between those games be damned. These are the elite of elite athletes we’re talking about. And, by the time such playoff reform comes about, air travel could have changed significantly like Commissioner Silver mentioned above. Innovations are never-ending.
There you have it. These are my multi-faceted proposals for fixing the NBA. Alas, I’m just one NBA fan residing in little old Salt Lake City, UT who roots for the Utah Jazz but I admire Adam Silver’s gumption and wish his ambition would extend further to benefit his league and sports fans as a whole. Even implementing half of the proposals listed here would etch Silver’s name into in sports history and could inject some much-needed intrigue and life into the NBA, which sorely needs some new energy.