NEW YORK — Adam Silver has been open to the idea of making changes to the NBA’s playoff format, where the best 16 teams regardless of conference would gain entry into the postseason.
Speaking to reporters at his annual All-Star weekend press conference in advance of Saturday night’s events, Silver provided a little more insight as to exactly how those changes might be made, while cautioning that there is no easy or perfect solution.
“Playoffs, that’s an issue that I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on,” Silver said. “Once again, if there was a simple solution we would have made it long ago. I understand the notion that we should have the absolute 16 best teams competing in the playoffs seemingly regardless of conferences and divisions. I am a believer, though, in the conference and the division system. It’s a tradeoff from the earlier issue I talked about. To the extent that you have a balanced schedule, meaning every team roughly played each other the same amount of times, it would require a lot more travel. That goes against the notion of ensuring that our teams are rested when they play.”
Silver also mentioned looking at the league’s scheduling, to cut down on the wear and tear players feel by having to play back-to-backs and four games in five nights during stretches of the 82-game regular season. But more than anything, he seemed reluctant to make any of the changes too severe, and, based on the ideas he was throwing out there, it’s clear that the planning of all of this is in the extremely early stages.
“I believe in the conference system, although I think there may be some tweaks,” Silver said. “There’s been some proposals about maybe division winners are ensured playoff spots. Maybe it’s the top two teams in each division and maybe there’s some teams that, therefore, get seeded based on their record.”
In addition to coming up with precisely what the new format would be, Silver is trying to be cognizant of the potential for unintended consequences.
“I’m also focused on the parade of horribles. You keep hearing it,” Silver said. “That somehow we’ll end up with Miami playing Portland in the first round [a logistical nightmare from a travel perspective]. I don’t mean to suggest that’s not a real issue. We have to look at that as well and see statistically what’s the likelihood of that happening. But it’s a balance. There will be no perfect solution here. But it is something that the Competition Committee needs to focus on and the owners need to focus on, as well.”
Silver has said previously that any changes wouldn’t happen until the 2016-17 season at the earliest, and reiterated that while giving these remarks. He also said that while he hasn’t officially polled the owners on this, he believes they will ultimately do what’s best for the league as a whole, rather than looking at a solution that, in the short term, may provide an immediate benefit to their specific situation.
“I think we have a group of owners who are willing to take a long‑term view ultimately,” Silver said. “They understand over time that we’re in a highly competitive marketplace. That we want to put our best foot forward. That we want the best product on the court. That’s been the way they’ve approached all our issues.”
“I think it’s a difficult issue, because there are no perfect solutions,” Silver said. “It’s early days but we’re going to take a very hard look at it.”