OAKLAND — The Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs — the two teams many people thought were the second and third best teams in the Western Conference — met in the first round of the NBA playoffs this season. It was an epic seven-game series, one of the best of the postseason, but one that took so much energy from the Clippers to win they started to fade against the Houston Rockets the next round (L.A. led 3-1 but lost the last three).
Los Angeles and San Antonio only met in the first round because under the current NBA rules Portland, which won 51 games, had to be the four seed in the West because it won the Northwest Division. That put them ahead of the 55-win Spurs. The NBA’s rules say if a team wins its division it can be no lower than the four seed. In the next round, Houston was the higher seed with home court against the Clippers because it won its division, even though both teams won 56 games.
For a couple years NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has suggested the divisions (or at least rewarding their winner) should be done away with, and he reiterated that again on Thursday, addressing the media before Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
“Having said that, we are very focused on the divisional seeding process, and I think we are going to take a very close look at whether we should seed at least 1 through 8 by conference as opposed to giving the division winner that higher seed,” Silver said. “So that is something we are taking a close look at that, and we may change that fairly quickly. As I’ve said earlier, that is a vestige of a division system that may not make sense anymore.”
Silver added the NBA is not yet going to just put the best 16 teams in the playoffs and seed regardless of conference, as has been suggested by some fans and media members.
“I think ultimately where (the owners) came out is this notion of 1 through 16 seeding, while it seems attractive in many ways, because of the additional travel that will result, it just doesn’t seem like a good idea at the moment,” Silver said. “This notion of, for example, this team would have played Boston in the first round under a 1through16 seeding and would have had to crisscross back and forth across the country, which does not seem like a good idea, especially based on the earlier question based on the health of our players, and focusing on actually reducing the amount of travel and back to backs.”
In other comments during his 45-minute talk, Silver said:
• Don’t expect changes to the intentional fouling rules to limit hack-a-whoever strategies.
“On the Hack-a-Shaq, you know, as I’ve said before, again, another issue we had a long discussion about at our general manager’s meeting recently in Chicago. And while we looked at the data, it’s true most of the general managers in that room were not in favor of making the change,” Silver said. “In essence, what the data shows is that you’re largely talking about two teams throughout the playoffs, in fact, 90 percent of the occurrences of HackaShaq involve the Rockets and the Clippers, and then for the most part it’s two players, 75 percent involved two players, DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard. So then the question becomes should we be making that rule change largely for two teams and two players?…
“But, in addition, one of the things I’ve raised before is I’m also concerned sort of as a steward of the game what it means if we change the rules as well, and that’s from literally the hundreds of emails I get from high school coaches, junior high coaches, AAU coaches saying you can’t possibly change the rule to accommodate players who can’t make free throws.
“So it’s a balance of issues, but I think it’s one that the owners will end up having a sort of robust discussion on this summer. Ultimately, I think I said the other day, my personal view is it would help to look at another season of data, because in so many of the situations with which it was used this year, putting aside the fact it was largely two teams, it flat out wasn’t effective. Even in terms of players hitting their free throws, roughly, if a player can hit 50 percent of his free throws, it defeats the strategy.”
• He said he would be open to a discussion of alterations to the NBA’s concussion protocol in the wake of the injury to Klay Thompson. However, he didn’t make it sound like change was coming.
• He talked about the plans unveiled in Milwaukee for a new stadium: “There is a bit of a negotiation going on. I don’t know how else to say it. There are some moving parts there. You have the State making a contribution, you have the City making a contribution as well. But I’m fairly confident it will all get worked out.”