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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

NBA travel already is a bear. Play in Indianapolis one day, New Orleans the next. That gets worse – much worse – when the conferences are scrapped.

Truth is, the West franchises should stand their ground against any change. Their current superiority helps the West, in two ways.

First, the lottery. Guess which team is in the lottery this year? Phoenix. The rich get richer. The Suns will get no worse than the 14th pick in the NBA Draft, and with some San Antonio-type luck could get a top-three pick. Meanwhile, Atlanta will get the 15th pick after being drubbed out of the first round for the third straight season.

Second, running in the fast heat helps, not hurts, the West franchises. You’ve got to be serious in the West. You can’t be Atlanta or Milwaukee, be mediocre year after year yet still reap some degree of success. Those franchises take forever to figure out the treadmill they’re on.

Not so in the West. When you swim with sharks, you’ve got to have sharp teeth.

Take the Rockets, for example. Houston has had one losing season since 2002. But winning a little isn’t good enough in the West. The Rockets went 42-40 in 2009-10, followed by 43-39 and 34-32. Good teams all. None made the playoffs.

So general manager Darryl Morey went about the business of building a flexible roster. When James Harden became available, the Rockets were ready with a trade. When Dwight Howard hit the open market, Houston was ready with cash and a contending team.

Had the Rockets been in the East, they might have been thrilled with perennial playoff teams that might even win a series. And no chance of title contention.

Being in the Western Conference comes at a cost. The price is high -- a good team sitting out the playoffs. But it’s worth it. Being in the Western Conference makes you better.

Save the conference system. Save the West.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at . He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at