Words by Phlip
I can’t be alone in seeing what a cash-grab the NBA playoffs are. While I happen to be a proponent of ACTUALLY shortening the season, I can’t imagine WHY ON EARTH there are 30 teams in the NBA and more than half of them are allowed to make the playoffs.
Let’s start at shortening the season, though…
30 teams occupy 6 divisions at 5 teams each. Each team plays EVERYONE in their division three times (with the extra home game traded from one year to the next), which adds up to 12 division games played by each team. Once divisional play is handled, each team is simply tasked with playing EVERY other team in the league twice, once home and once away. That adds an additional 58 games to the schedule, bringing us to the reasonable number of 70 games.
Spread out over a more reasonable amount of time, a 70-game season is much easier on the knees of the players and – in my opinion – will result in all-around better and more athletic basketball.
And now that we have trimmed the excess off of the season, let’s talk about the playoffs…
To have 16 teams competing in best-of-7 series in all rounds is ridiculous and I thought so when they changed the first round from best-of-5 in 2003. At the time, I was of the opinion that the first round should be best-of-3, then the conference semifinals best-of-5 and the conference and NBA finals both best-of-7. I was 23 at the time…
Now, the idea is a bit different. First thing to do is to take the playoffs back to 12 teams and stop rewarding a sub-.500 team by letting them into the playoffs like the Knicks are on pace to do this season. Not that I am patently against the Knicks making the playoffs–… well, maybe I am, but I am ABSOLUTELY against teams who have not won at least half of the games they played making it in. With that in mind, we’re back down to 12 playoffs teams, and the motivation to not find yourself on the edge is that the draft lottery WILL NOT CHANGE, the worst 14 records in the league are still the lottery teams. The idea is to stop rewarding mediocrity.
The teams that will be in the dance will be the 3 division winners in each conference, paired off with the 3 remaining best records in each conference. Seeding will be the same as it is now, with the teams with the higher record getting home-court advantage in the conference and NBA finals, but the division winner will have home-court in the first round.
… and now for format…
- • Round one: 3 games in a 1-1-1 (home-away-home) format. #1 and #2 seeds sit this one out. #3 plays against #6 and #4 plays against #5. Home court advantage is decided, in order, by (1) division winner status, or (2) overall won/loss record if neither won their division, or (3) tie-break if records are equal.
• Round two: Winner of the 3 vs 6 series takes on #1, while 5 vs 4 winner will take on #2. Naturally, the 1 and 2 seeds will have home court advantage in this 2-2-1 (home-away-home) series.
• Conference championship: natural progression here for this 7-game series in 2-3-2 series to be started and finished in the home-court-advantaged team’s arena.
• NBA Finals: winners of conference championships meet here with whomever has the better record being designated the home team and their coach choosing the format between 2-3-2, 2-2-2-1 or 2-2-1-1-1 (another throwback to how it used to be).
And there it is… the first round is trimmed from 8 series totaling anywhere from 32-56 games down to four series totaling a max of 12. Round two goes from 4 series with the same 32-56 games to 4 with 12-20 total. Conference and NBA finals, being that they’re really worth something, are given the weight, time and attention they deserve and can go 7 games each. The end result is the same number of rounds to the playoffs without anything NEAR the grueling number of games to be played. As currently constructed, even the #1 overall team in the NBA playoffs sees no benefit for their effort, compared to the #8, who could just as easily be campaigning for the next one-and-done coming out of college.
As I type this, I begin to think of the “moneyball” type of players, who love the big numbers, big stats and big records that longer seasons and playoffs series, because it would take them literally forever to catch the all-time greats if I take 12 games off their regular season and more than that off of their playoffs. It’s for their own good, though.
A writer I used to read (when he used to write) named Charley Rosen attributed the knee problems that current-era players are almost GUARANTEED to have can be just as easily attributed to the shoes as it can the fact that players are bigger and more athletic than ever, and he is right on both counts. Personally, I add the fact that they’re playing entirely too many games on their larger frames and super cushiony shoes. Quality of life after basketball should be something to consider, and arthritic knees and mangled joints does not equal “quality” living.