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Fair or not, NBA needs to keep its current playoff format

NBA commissioner Adam Silver says he’s open to considering a playoff change that would include the top 16 teams in the league, not just the top eight in each conference.
by Berry Tramel Published: April 16, 2014

The 37-win Atlanta Hawks are in the NBA playoffs and the 47-win Phoenix Suns are not. Oh, the humanity.

Some are outraged that the Western Conference so dominates the East. Some are calling for revolution. Some are heeding the call.

Even NBA commissioner Adam Silver says he’s open to considering a playoff change that would include the top 16 teams in the league, not just the top eight in each conference.

Terrible idea. Terrible.

Is it fair that a quality team like the Suns is conducting exit interviews this week while a hapless team like the Hawks is on the NBA bracket?

Oh, I don’t know. Is it fair that Milwaukee’s weather stinks and Miami has South Beach? Is it fair that Tim Duncan is in San Antonio and Kevin Durant in OKC because of lottery luck, while the Wizards can’t catch a break with the ping-pong balls?

They don’t do it for fair.

There are multiple reasons to keep the current system, and no reason good enough to change it.

Conference superiority is cyclical. Sure, the West dominates the East these days and has for a decade or more. But not so long ago, the East dominated the West.

The ’97 Clippers made the playoffs at 36-46. The ’96 Kings and the ’93 Lakers made it at 39-43. Heck, in the ’80s, the West was awful. The ’88 Spurs made the post-season at 31-51.

What goes around comes around. The East will live again.

But you want the top 16 teams in the playoffs? OK, then you have to scrap the conferences. Equal scheduling. You want the West teams lumped in with the East? Then you have to lump in the schedules, too.

Just grab some Pepto Bismol. You’ll be sick to your stomach. How would the Thunder like a schedule in which it played the Spurs twice and the Raptors thrice? The Mavericks twice and the Bobcats thrice? The Lakers or Clippers twice and the Magic thrice?

Could happen, would happen, by scrapping conferences.

The NBA’s geographic setup isn’t perfect. But it tries. The NBA does what the NFL and baseball fail to do – create regional rivalries. The NBA is split east/west. Baseball has tried to compensate with interleague play, but the NBA doesn’t have to compensate. All the Pacific Rim teams, all the Southwest teams, all the Rocky Mountain teams, are in the same conference.

That helps with rivalries, helps with travel wear and tear, helps with local television promotion. Wonder how the Knickerbockers would like 10 Pacific Time Zone games a year instead of five. Nothing like a 10:30 p.m. tip to draw the masses. Or the Lakers 25 tips at 4 p.m. California time.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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