Seemingly since the new millennium, the western conference has predominately been the better and more competitive conference top to bottom in the NBA.
While there are seasons in the eastern conference when a team with a record under 500. has made the postseason, there have also been years where a 48 win team has missed the playoffs in the western conference (the Warriors in 2008, Suns in 2014).
This had led to many people in and around the game calling for a break from the traditional conference format for the playoffs in favor of seeding the top 16 records in the NBA regardless of conference.
It was never really seen as anywhere close to an actual possibility, until now maybe?…
Here is what NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told media during NBA All-Star weekend about the situation:
“That is something that’s gotten serious attention, not just recently, but over the last few years at the league office,” Silver said in an address to the media. “I think, as I’ve said in the past, the obstacle is travel, and it’s not tradition in my mind, at least. It’s that as we’ve added an extra week to the regular season, as we’ve tried to reduce the number of back-to-backs, that we are concerned about teams crisscrossing the country in the first round, for example. We are just concerned about the overall travel that we would have in the top 16 teams.
“Having said that, you also would like to have a format where your two best teams are ultimately going to meet in The Finals, and obviously, if it’s the top team in the East and top team in the West, I’m not saying this is the case this year, but you could have a situation where the top two teams in the league are meeting in the Conference Finals or somewhere else.
“So we’re going to continue to look at that. It’s still my hope that we’re going to figure out ways.”
I like the fact that Silver and league officials are viewing this issue with an open mind and forward-thinking mindset, with player travel concerns as the major barrier to a change and not tradition.
It just feels like unless modern technology advances to make cross country travel even faster and easier, the league likely wouldn’t be willing to change the scheduling format in different rounds, reduce the number of regular season games or spread out the schedule even more than it already has to accommodate this.
We can still dream though…