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Slick Pinkham
06-12-2007, 09:19 AM
interesting, radical idea

Sorry, I didn't see the other thread on this. The article is not posted in that thread.

http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs2007/insider/columns/story?columnist=hollinger_john&id=2900512&univLogin02=stateChanged

SAN ANTONIO -- For those of you who don't think the NBA's playoff system needs tweaking, let Game 2 be your wake-up call. The NBA's playoff system needs tweaking.

Thanks to the incomprehensible mediocrity of the Eastern Conference, the NBA's marquee event is becoming a joke. The Spurs are so obviously better than the Cavaliers that, LeBron factor or not, this is sure to end up as a total ratings disaster for the league. Forget Tony Parker versus Tony Soprano; how about Tony Parker versus Eva Longoria? One wonders whether ABC would have been better off airing a rerun of "Desperate Housewives" rather than Sunday night's one-sided affair.

So while the Cavs spent the aftermath of Game 2 talking about improving their effort and their execution, we all know there's only thing that could give them a real chance: switching opponents and playing somebody from the East.

Not that they'll admit it publicly.

"It's just an upgrade from series to series," LeBron James said when I asked him about going from Detroit to San Antonio. "From the first round to the second round, conference finals, and then to the Finals, it's an upgrade. It doesn't matter who it is, the intensity level automatically picks up."

Well, that's half true. For the Cavs, it's definitely an upgrade. For the Spurs ... not so much. This is going to upset some Cavs fans, but Cleveland is the weakest team San Antonio has faced in this postseason.

Phoenix, obviously, was superior to Cleveland -- no sane person would dispute this. Additionally, I would submit that Utah and Denver were substantially better, too -- once you adjust for the increased difficulty of the Western Conference and the fact that both were peaking before they ran into the Spurs.

Take it from somebody who was there -- San Antonio's first-round series against Denver was way more intense and competitive than these past two exhibitions. I also would argue the Spurs were far more concerned about the outcome during that matchup than they are in this series, where overconfidence seems to be their biggest enemy.

That's just wrong, on so many levels. This is the freaking Finals, for crying out loud. You know -- Bird versus Magic, Air Jordan versus The Mailman, that type of thing. We should be seeing the cream versus the cream, not the Cavs getting creamed.

I'd like to think this is just a one-year problem, but it was the same deal in the early part of the decade, and the current malaise could go on much longer. With next year's two marquee rookies headed West, and the Eastern Conference mired in gross managerial incompetence, we're one LeBron injury from seeing somebody such as Toronto or Washington representing the East as a "finalist" next year. That should be fun ... for about four games or so.

A great many proposals have been floated for how to fix this problem. One is reseeding the playoffs after each round, but that idea comes up short in two ways. First, it's very problematic for scheduling and TV purposes, in part because a round couldn't begin and matchups couldn't be set until every series in the previous round was done. Second, it wouldn't solve the East-West problem we're addressing here.

Another common idea is to seed all the teams in a single bracket by winning percentage, from No. 1 to No. 16. This, too, has a drawback, though -- it makes the distinction between East and West, or division winner and runner-up, completely meaningless. We'd still like for some of those late-season in-conference battles to have more at stake; besides, the NBA is big on giving all those division winners a little flag to hang from the rafters.

There's a way around this, however, that still enables us to avoid watching an East-West rout in the Finals. (By the way, for those of you who wish to bring up recent East success: The West has won six of the past eight Finals and will make it seven of nine this year. Few of these series were close.)

I stumbled upon this idea the other day when I was talking to another writer and he joked, "They should play West versus East in the first round, not the last."

The more I think about it, this is no joke: They really should play West versus East earlier in the playoffs. It's a great way to reward the West powers while avoiding the train wreck Finals scenario created by the East's awfulness -- a scenario the league has found itself in in 1999, 2001 and 2002 and again this year.

Here's the nitty-gritty.

The regular season would play out just as it does now. Then the league would seed the teams 1 to 8 in each conference, just as it does now.

Then it changes -- the two conferences would cross-match in the playoffs, so every series is set up to be East versus West. Of course, in those cases when the lower-seeded West team is able to eliminate the higher-seeded East team, then we would have West versus West, which means this system would be working exactly as intended: We would have the stronger teams meeting in the later rounds, regardless of conference.

This year, for instance, No. 1 Detroit from the East would have faced No. 8 Golden State from the West, and No. 1 Dallas from the West would have faced No. 8 Orlando from the East.

Although we would have lost the scintillating Warriors-Mavs series, the big picture would have been enhanced greatly under this plan. You can quickly see how much better the next three rounds might have been.

Instead of the league's losing its MVP in the first round, Dallas would have had a virtual bye. And Detroit would have been the team facing the stern challenge of beating a torrid Golden State team that was perhaps the most atypical No. 8 seed the league has seen.

And the situation only improves from there, culminating in an NBA Finals with Phoenix facing Dallas or San Antonio.

BRACKET FOR MY PROPOSAL

"East" Half
(1E) Detroit vs. (8W) Golden State
(4W) Utah vs. (5E) Chicago
(2W) Phoenix vs. (7E) Washington
(3E) Toronto vs. (6W) Denver

"West" Half
(1W) Dallas vs. (8E) Orlando
(4E) Miami vs. (5W) Houston
(2E) Cleveland vs. (7W) L.A. Lakers
(3W) San Antonio vs. (6E) New Jersey

As you can see, Phoenix versus San Antonio -- "the real Finals" -- wouldn't be possible until the final round, rather than in Round 2. And in the second round, we'd get the current doozy between Cleveland and San Antonio, which is entirely appropriate.

Also, if Cleveland did make it to the league's final four, it at least would have had to beat a team with a winning record, which was not true this year. Don't you think the league would have preferred that to what actually happened?

Instead of a neutered East, each side of the bracket has some real teams in it. Utah versus Chicago as a first-round series would have been outstanding, as would the LeBron versus Kobe matchup when the Cavs played the Lakers. And the Nuggets, instead of getting ambushed by a first-round pairing against eventual champion San Antonio (just pretend it's next week already), would have had a much more friendly pairing against injury-wracked Toronto (a matchup that instead benefited a 41-win New Jersey team).

Are there snags here? Absolutely. For starters, every series would have to go to the dreaded 2-3-2 format because of the potential for crazy travel situations (Seattle versus Miami, anyone? How about Portland-Toronto?). Nobody really likes the 2-3-2 -- well, nobody except the road-weary media -- because underdogs have almost no chance of clinching the series at home, which is always way more entertaining than seeing them take it on the road.

Additionally, there's the elephant in the room: television. It's tough for the league to count on an early game and a late game to program doubleheaders around when theoretically there could be several West Coast teams hosting playoff games at the same time.

However, this is really a problem only in the second round. In Round 1, the NBA could set up its TV schedule exactly the way it does now (although it might have to guarantee home court to the top four seeds from each conference to make it work). And in the conference finals, there would be only one game a night anyway, so it shouldn't throw anything off-kilter by that point.

Round 2 would be the biggest potential problem. In theory, there is the potential for, say, Portland, Seattle, Golden State and Phoenix to be hosting playoff games in Round 2 at the same point in the schedule. That might necessitate some funky scheduling -- a 5 p.m. local start for the early game or, alternatively, an 11:30 p.m. start on the East Coast for the late game. But that's an unlikely traffic jam, and one that potentially can be scheduled around via weekend day games and creative use of off days.

Besides, let's keep the big picture in mind. The reward for the chance of a somewhat convoluted schedule in the second round is that we don't have to suffer through a Finals like this one or like the Lakers-Nets massacre in 2002, when the East sent a team to the big showcase that clearly had no business being there and devalued the whole event. Seems to me the benefits more than outweigh the costs, and right now there probably are a few folks at ABC who agree with me.

As I said, Game 2 was the wake-up call. Let's hope the league picks up the phone.

Kegboy
06-12-2007, 09:36 AM
I was waiting for someone to propose this. However, I refuse to give the idea any merit because Hollinger proposed it. :-p

Doug
06-12-2007, 09:38 AM
I like this.

It might go against tradition, but I do think the current system needs something to pick up the interest.

Unclebuck
06-12-2007, 09:57 AM
Well, when I started reading the article, I was all set to rip it and rip Hollinger. But actually it isn't a bad idea. Although I'm sure in the future when the two conferences are somewhat equal, the league will want to change it back.

Of course one really bad thing about it is you'll have east coast teams starting some games at 10:30 and some west coast teams starting their games 5:00 or even 4:00. Next season if the Pacers have to play the Suns, I'm sure the local viewing public will love 10:30 starts. So that is a big problem.

Another problem is travel, although that isn't a huge deal breaker.

It will never happen.

In these playoffs, there have been what I call 3 really, really good series.
Mavs vs G.State
Suns vs Spurs
Cavs vs Pistons.

a few others were pretty good.
Jazz vs Rockets
Even though it was a sweep, I'd say the Bulls vs Heat was good.

But that is about it. So I don't know how this new set-up with solve that problem. The fact of the matter is people wanted to really only see the Mavs, Suns and Spurs play a round robin tournament, maybe we should just do that next season

MagicRat
06-12-2007, 09:59 AM
I say they secretly make Cleveland's hoop just a little bigger and San Antonio's hoop just a little smaller.

I'm sure Coach Carlisle has the data available to properly calibrate the sizes to even things out......

Kegboy
06-12-2007, 10:01 AM
I say they secretly make Cleveland's hoop just a little bigger and San Antonio's hoop just a little smaller.

I'm sure Coach Carlisle has the data available to properly calibrate the sizes to even things out......

I was thinking about that watching game 2.

FlavaDave
06-12-2007, 10:05 AM
The biggest problem isn't the mismatch. It is the fact that the series is 7 games.

Colts-Bears would have terrible ratings if it was a 7 game series.

I'm all for shaking it up. This is a half-decent idea.

Do you know what this league needs? A new collective barganing agreement. These weird-*** cap rules are killing teams.

Lord Helmet
06-12-2007, 01:06 PM
Well, when I started reading the article, I was all set to rip it and rip Hollinger. But actually it isn't a bad idea. Although I'm sure in the future when the two conferences are somewhat equal, the league will want to change it back.

Of course one really bad thing about it is you'll have east coast teams starting some games at 10:30 and some west coast teams starting their games 5:00 or even 4:00. Next season if the Pacers have to play the Suns, I'm sure the local viewing public will love 10:30 starts. So that is a big problem.

Another problem is travel, although that isn't a huge deal breaker.

It will never happen.

In these playoffs, there have been what I call 3 really, really good series.
Mavs vs G.State
Suns vs Spurs
Cavs vs Pistons.

a few others were pretty good.
Jazz vs Rockets
Even though it was a sweep, I'd say the Bulls vs Heat was good.

But that is about it. So I don't know how this new set-up with solve that problem. The fact of the matter is people wanted to really only see the Mavs, Suns and Spurs play a round robin tournament, maybe we should just do that next season
Shouldn't be a big problem here, since no one cares for the Pacers in Indiana, anymore. :rolleyes:

Naptown_Seth
06-12-2007, 02:46 PM
Waste of time.

The most popular basketball event in the US features not only NO reseeding, but not even a 7 game series to avoid "lucky upsets" in round one (which is a BS concept anyway, 5 vs 7 that is).

You know why the NCAA is popular? Because they play many games at once, have this chance for lower seeds to sneak through (which is why GS/DAL was popular in fact), and because they don't screw around dragging it on, at least over the first 2 weeks.

The NBA playoffs were hurt by the lack of back-to-backs (and it was even the early 90s or at least 89 area when teams still had playoff games on back-to-back days) and Sterns refusal to have any game not on exclusive viewing. They are trying to get back to it but they are still dragging their feet.

Accept that not everyone wants to see every team, and if they do they usually can either DVR it or catch it on the repeat later that night on ESPN/NBATV, and just have the first round games head to head and in some portion of prime time for EVERYONE.

10:30 DAL/GS just so we can see a CLE/WSH matchup?


And then this dream that if you lay it out just right there will be no "bad" series? Of course there will. In fact I HOPE there will be some. It's sports, half the excitement is that you NEVER KNOW. If it went like a script who'd care anymore? Why even play if the #1 and #2 will face off and then 1 vs 1 for the Finals every time?

This just in, PHX blowing out an injured WSH team would be just as dull. Same with SA vs NJ. In fact that sounds familiar, haven't we already seen the THRILLS and CHILLS of a Spurs/Nets playoff series? Um, yeah, some "solution".


Fix the quality of the sport, the TV broadcasts anywhere other than TNT, and you'll have fan interest back. Reseeding is about as creative as going back to a red-white-blue ball in terms of substantial solutions.

Naptown_Seth
06-12-2007, 02:51 PM
BTW Hollinger, prior to the 2004 Finals the Lakers were OBVIOUSLY better than the Pistons. Maybe let's just roll the ball out there and let them play anyway.

Roaming Gnome
06-12-2007, 04:14 PM
God, I hope Cleveland pounds the Spurs at home, nothing against the Spurs, but I'm so tired of the disrespect from the media. Hell, I don't live in Cleveland, but I'm beyond irritated already. Cleveland earned the right, 'nough said.

Naptown_Seth
06-12-2007, 04:19 PM
God, I hope Cleveland pounds the Spurs at home, nothing against the Spurs, but I'm so tired of the disrespect from the media. Hell, I don't live in Cleveland, but I'm beyond irritated already. Cleveland earned the right, 'nough said.
Even if they don't come back, hasn't the "Least" won 2 of the last 3 titles? SA didn't exactly cruise past Detroit either.

Elgin56
06-12-2007, 04:44 PM
A huge part of the problem is, the damn season is toooooooo long, Mid June is for fishing, baseball, working in the garden, girl watching, and on and on and on, not freaking basketball. Of course it is all about the bottom line, so expect the season to get longer and end around the 4th of July, whoopee!

Unclebuck
06-12-2007, 04:58 PM
A huge part of the problem is, the damn season is toooooooo long, Mid June is for fishing, baseball, working in the garden, girl watching, and on and on and on, not freaking basketball. Of course it is all about the bottom line, so expect the season to get longer and end around the 4th of July, whoopee!

I'm just sick enough to love that it lasts this long.

avoidingtheclowns
06-12-2007, 05:10 PM
i love that the season as a whole lasts this long, i don't love the fact that the playoffs drag on and on - there shouldn't be 2 and 3 days between games.

bellisimo
06-12-2007, 06:55 PM
as long as the Pacers are a part of the dragged on playoffs schedule...I have no problem...its when we are in the off-season while the playoffs drag on...that gets me...the sooner the new season starts/we can prepare for it...the better...