The NBA’s first newly formatted All-Star game went well (especially for LeBron James). It’ll probably go even better next year when the All-Star draft is televised.
Adam Silver also discussed breaking from another tradition – playoffs divided by conference. The NBA commissioner said 1-16 seeding has gotten “serious attention” from the league office.
LeBron, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:
“I would disagree with that,” James said Wednesday afternoon following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first practice since the break. “I think our league has been built the right way as far as when it comes to the postseason.”
“It’s cool to mess around with the All-Star Game, we proved you can do that, but let’s not get too crazy about the playoffs. You have Eastern Conference and you have Western Conference. You have Eastern Conference champions, you have guys from the Eastern Conference that win the big dance and sometimes you have it from the West as well.”
LeBron has won seven straight Eastern Conference titles, usually traversing an easier road to the NBA Finals than the Western Conference champion. With the West projecting to remain better for the foreseeable future, does this hint LeBron plans to stay East and wants to keep his advantage? Remaining with the Cavaliers seems slightly more likely now, though maybe LeBron will leave for the 76ers or some other Eastern Conference team. I doubt he knows yet, but I also think he cares about his conference-title streak for legacy reasons – to the point it could affect his free agency. So, this could be preemptive lobbying.
In the past, LeBron has had Silver’s ear. But Silver specifically said in Los Angeles he wasn’t concerned with the tradition issues LeBron raises.
I’m not either.
The NBA has always split the postseason by East and West, but teams have been too fluid between the conferences to feel beholden to the current setup. Current Eastern Conference teams Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic have all been in the Western Conference while in their current locations. And vice versa with the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs. (The New Orleans Hornets were in the Eastern Conference before they became the Pelicans and surrendered their history to Charlotte, and the Pelicans are now in the West.)
To Silver, the obstacle is travel. Concern is frequently raised about the possible effects of cross-coast playoff series.
I’m more concerned about the regular season.
Right now, teams play 52 intra-conference and 30 inter-conference. To most logically implement 1-16 seeding, the NBA would have to balance the regular-season schedule. That not only means more travel, it means more awkward start times due to time-zone difference. East Coast fans don’t want to stay up until 10 p.m. to watch their favorite team tip off during Western Conference road trips. West Coast fans don’t want to rush home from work or school to see their favorite team tip off at 4 p.m. during Eastern Conference road trips.
And then there’s the biggest and maybe only real issue: It’s virtually impossible to see enough Eastern Conference owners, who benefit from the current format, voting to change it.