NBA commissioner Adam Silver
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NBA in talks to add in-season tournament, re-seed conference Finals, shorten season

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For more than a year now, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said that the league’s upcoming 75th season — the 2021-22 season — would be the perfect time to make radical changes to the league’s schedule, trying new things to generate interest to counter the drop off in people watching traditional broadcasts.

Those changes may become a reality.

The league is in negotiations with the players’ union and broadcast partners to make sweeping changes that season. The idea would be to shorten the regular season by a handful of games (still playing at least 78), to add a mid-season tournament for every team, re-seeding the final four teams in playoffs regardless of conference, and more.

Zach Lowe and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN have the details.

The NBA is engaged in serious discussions with the National Basketball Players Association and broadcast partners on sweeping and dramatic changes to the league calendar that include a reseeding of the four conference finalists, a 30 team in-season tournament, and a postseason play-in, league sources told ESPN.

These scenarios include the shortening of the regular season to a minimum of 78 games, league sources said.

Discussions are progressing with hopes of bringing a vote to the April meeting of the league’s Board of Governors that would introduce some — if not all of these proposals — into the NBA’s 75th anniversary season of 2021-2022, league sources said. The NBA still has work to do coordinating with constituents on the myriad of implications involving the proposed changes.

Getting all the parties involved to agree to this is a Herculean task. Silver is more of a consensus builder than a commissioner who wields his power like a dictator, but he’s going to need to twist some arms to make this happen. The argument to the teams is that while they lose a couple of regular season home games and that gate revenue (plus local broadcast revenue), the extra money from a mid-season tournament broadcast package would more than make up for that.

Let’s take a look at each proposal.

Re-seeding Conference Finals

There has been a concern in recent years that with the depth of the West the league’s two best teams meet in the conference finals, sucking the drama out of a Finals where the outcome feels obvious. Re-seeding the final four teams left in the playoffs could lead to more dramatic matchups in both rounds.

For example, if this had been done last season, the conference Finals would have been the Bucks vs. Trail Blazers and Warriors vs. Raptors (a scenario that probably sends the Milwaukee into the Finals and has Toronto taking on a healthier Golden State team). Two seasons ago it would have meant the 65-win Rockets take on LeBron James’ Cavaliers and Golden State vs. upstart Boston in the conference finals, potentially setting up the Rockets/Warriors as the NBA Finals (those were the two best teams that season). In both cases, the NBA gets what it wants, which is its biggest name players on its biggest stage in meaningful games.

While it breaks with tradition, it doesn’t change much in terms of the scheduling for the league or the broadcast partners. It’s possible some owners in the East object if they see their chances of reaching the Finals decreasing.

Mid-Season NBA Tournament

Adam Silver has been enamored with the European soccer model, where teams play for multiple titles in a season. While there is the regular season, there are also multiple cups and other championships — for example, the FA Cup in England — that gives fans something else to root and hope for. A team stuck in the middle of the Premiere League table could make a run deep into the FA Cup, giving those fans hope and a reason to tune in.

Silver also has liked the idea of being able to sell this tournament as a separate broadcast package — remember FOX and CBS had serious interest in broadcasting NBA games during the last negotiations — that generates more revenue for the league.

This likely would run early in the season, between Thanksgiving and Christmas (ideally adding interest during a part of the year when fans are more focused on the NFL and college bowl games).

Structurally, this would start with some already-scheduled regular-season division games also counting as part of a round-robin group stage (putting a double meaning on those games and upping the importance of what could otherwise be a bland regular season night). From there, the top teams would advance to a knock-out stage event (which would have the separate broadcast rights).

To motivate teams and players, there is going to have to be a significant financial incentive for them. This new tournament is not baked into the culture of the sport or the psyche of fans the way it is in European soccer. It’s going to take a long time for this to grow, it can’t be a one-year thing.

Playoff play-in games

This is another proposal that has bounced around the NBA in various forms for a few years. The idea is to take seeds 7, 8, 9, and 10 and put them in a special tournament. The 7 seed would host the 8 seed in one play-in game, with the winner automatically advancing to the playoffs. The 9 seed would host the 10 seed, and the loser of that game is out. Then the loser of the 7/8 game and the winner of the 9/10 game would meet in a one-game, winner gets into the playoffs contest.

Last season this would have meant in the East Orlando would have played Detroit, with the loser of that game facing the winner of a Charlotte/Miami matchup for the right to continue on in the playoffs. In the West, the Clippers and Spurs would have been the 7/8 matchup, with the loser having to face the winner of a Kings/Lakers game to be in the traditional part of the postseason.

The league’s goal here is obvious: Get more fan bases interested in the games late in the season and not looking ahead to the draft and free agency. (There has been a legitimate concern in at the top of the league about the focus on transactions by fans and not the games themselves, and what that would mean for the future of the sport.)

Shortening the NBA season

That’s not happening here in any meaningful way. This will not address concerns about load management or injury concerns from players.

The regular season would become 78 games, although teams that advance to the finals of the mid-season tournament would still play about 81 games. It is possible that if a 9/10 seed team also made a run to the finals of the mid-season tournament they could play 83 games; however, that would be a very rare occurrence.

Kevin Garnett on Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor: ‘I don’t do business with snakes’

Kevin Garnett and Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor
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Kevin Garnett despises Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor.

DESPISES.

Garnett, after retiring, planned to join Flip Saunders in the Timberwolves organization. But when Saunders died, that plan fell apart. Garnett blames Taylor.

So, Garnett keeps taking shots at the Timberwolves. Most visibly, Garnett – who’ll have his number retired by the Celtics – refuses to participate in having his number retired in Minnesota, where it’d make even more sense.

Garnett, via Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Glen knows where I’m at, I’m not entertaining it. First of all, it’s not genuine. Two, he’s getting pressure from a lot of fans and, I guess, the community there. Glen and I had an understanding before Flip died, and when Flip died, that understanding went with Flip. For that, I won’t forgive Glen. I won’t forgive him for that. I thought he was a straight up person, straight up business man, and when Flip died, everything went with him.

There’s no reason to complain. Just continue to move on. My years in Minnesota and in that community, I cherish. At this point, I don’t want any dealings with Glen Taylor or Taylor Corp. or anything that has to do with him. I love my Timberwolves, I’ll always love my guys, I’ll always love the people who [f—] with me there. I’ll always have a special place for the city of Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota in my heart. But I don’t do business with snakes. I don’t do business with snake mu’[f—]as. I try not to do business with openly snakes or people who are snake-like.

I don’t know what Taylor promised Garnett. So, it’s impossible to evaluate whether Garnett is being fair in his grudge. Maybe Taylor lied and deserves all Garnett’s scorn. Maybe Garnett heard what he wanted to hear.

But time heals most wounds, and I suspect it’ll eventually heal this one. Garnett has too many fond memories of Minnesota to let Taylor undermine all of it. The Timberwolves will eventually retire Garnett’s number.

That said, there’s clearly still plenty to overcome first.

Fans to be refunded for Team USA-Australia games last summer

Team USA-Australia
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Russell Crowe disliked his view for the Team USA-Australia exhibition games in Melbourne last August.

He wasn’t the only one.

Many fans griped about the sightlines from their floor-level seats. Even Australia upsetting the U.S. in a pre-World Cup tune-up didn’t satiate the Boomer fans who wanted a better look at the action – and paid plenty for their seats.

But those fans will get compensated.

Jake Michaels of ESPN:

Around AU$5 million ($3.08 million U.S.) will be refunded to spectators of last year’s Boomers vs. Team USA two-game series at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium after the Australian consumer watchdog found that promoter TEG Live made false claims about its seating plan.

The 20,000 refunds will be paid out to those who purchased floor-level seating for the games. Despite a mock-up depicting tiered seating, the seats used were in flat rows, lower than the court and, in some cases, more than 30 metres from the action.

That comes to $154 per ticket – not cheap for an exhibition game.

Now, who do American fans see about restitution for their team not meeting expected standards?

2020 PBT Awards: Executive of the Year

Clippers executive Lawrence Frank with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George
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The NBA regular season might be finished. Heck, the entire NBA season might be finished. Even if play resumes with regular-season games, there’d likely be an abridged finish before the playoffs (which will also likely be shortened).

So, we’re making our 2019-20 award picks now. If the regular season somehow lasts long enough to reconsider our choices, we’ll do that. But here are our selections on the assumption the regular season is over.

Kurt Helin

1. Lawrence Frank, Clippers

2. Sam Presti, Thunder

3. Danny Ainge, Celtics

Lawrence Frank gets his name called but the Clippers operate more like a team in the front office than a top-down dictatorship. Michael Winger, Mark Hughes, Jerry West, Trent Redden, Lee Jenkins, Dee Brown and the rest of the team pulled off the incredible Kawhi Leonard/Paul George double last July and around that have built the deepest, most dangerous roster in the NBA. Maybe Frank can write up a report for Jason Kidd on how he pulled all this off. Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti also deserves credit for pivoting and lining up a rebuild while keeping the Thunder a winning and competitive team on the court.

Dan Feldman

1. Lawrence Frank, Clippers

2. Sam Presti, Thunder

3. Pat Riley, Heat

Oklahoma City improved… while adding an incredible haul of future draft picks. Sam Presti had a special summer. But the game is winning championships, and the Clippers went from feisty upstart to title contender by completing an ambitious plan to add Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Maybe the Clippers will never win a championship. Perhaps, the Thunder set themselves up to win multiple titles down the road. But the Clippers’ big strides took them far closer to the finish line, and I’ll reward the more-known quantity.

Pat Riley got third place primarily on two moves – improving from mediocre to quite good by landing Jimmy Butler and creating significant salary-cap flexibility in the Justise WinslowAndre Iguodala trade. That topped Nets general manager Sean Marks, who lured Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving but faced complications in overseeing his team’s new direction.

Keith Smith

1. Jon Horst, Bucks

2. Lawrence Frank, Clippers

3. Sam Presti, Thunder

For a second straight year, Jon Horst put together a dominant and deep team. Milwaukee lost Malcolm Brogdon, but got a first-round pick for a free agent. That’s solid work. He also re-signed Khris Middleton, George Hill and Brook Lopez to fair contracts. And around them Horst added Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, Kyle Korver and Marvin Williams to fill out the roster. Milwaukee goes 13-deep in legitimate rotation players for the team with the league’s best record.

Lawrence Frank built the Clippers on the fly. When Kawhi Leonard said he’d sign if LA traded for Paul George, Frank didn’t hesitate and made it happen. Frank also re-signed Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac and JaMychal Green, while adding Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson in- season. The result is a team that is 10-deep in playoff players and one of the Western Conference favorites.

When the Thunder traded away Paul George and Russell Westbrook, it was assumed that Sam Presti would eventually move Chris Paul too. Instead, Oklahoma City has been one of the league’s best surprises. All of the trade acquisitions have played a big part in that. Paul has had another great season Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari have turned in good years. And rookies Darius Bazley and Luguentz Dort look like keepers too. Oh, and Presti has up to seven extra first-round picks and a couple of years of swap rights coming too.

Ben Wallace not sure Pistons would have won titles if they drafted Carmelo over Darko

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Carmelo Anthony said recently if the Detroit Pistons had drafted him No. 2 instead of Darko Miličić, he would have won two or three titles. Chauncy Billups agreed with him.

Ben Wallace isn’t buying it.

Wallace appeared on the on the 120 Watts podcast and said if the Pistons had taken Anthony the team would have developed differently and might have come together in a way that it did not win a title in 2004 or any others (hat tip to NBA Reddit):

“If we would’ve drafted Carmelo, I honestly don’t think we would have ever won a championship. Melo wanted to play right away. It would have had the potential to disrupt the team chemistry… By drafting Darko, he came in and said that he is not ready to play on this team. Who I am going to play in front of. I’m not ready, and by him doing that and accepting his role, it allowed us to build and grow and get stronger and eventually win a championship…

“If we drafted Carmelo, Tayshaun [Prince] wouldn’t blossom to be the type of a player that he way. We won that championship on the back of the best block I’ve ever seen in my life, and I blocked a lot of shots. That is the type of grit and grind that the team had.”

It’s an interesting point and Wallace is right about this: We never know how a team would have developed differently if ‘Melo had been a Piston. Maybe it wouldn’t have worked, perhaps it would have thrown off the team chemistry and softened up that elite defense.

Still, put me in “the more talent the better” camp. Anthony is a future Hall of Famer who came into the league knowing how to get buckets. That Pistons team had some of the greatest defenses the league has ever seen, but the question was always could they score enough. Anthony would have had to accept more of a role, but he fills that scoring need. And, on a team of players he respects, Anthony is willing to play his part.

Count me with the group that thinks the Pistons win more with ‘Melo than they did with Darko. Or, frankly, Chris Bosh (fourth in that draft). Or Dwyane Wade (fifth). But the Pistons made their bet and they still got a ring.