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NBA discussing changes that would impact regular season and playoff formats


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Sometimes it seems no one is ever satisfied with the way the game is played in the four major sports in the United States. Everyone is tinkering, toying with rules and structure in hopes of becoming more relevant and interesting.

Now we’re hearing the NBA is engaged in discussions with its Players Association geared towards the implementation of a new schedule that would drastically change its face.

ESPN spelled it all out for us over the weekend. Among the items being discussed: the reseeding of the four conference finalists, a 30-team in-season tournament and a postseason play-in.

If enacted, the changes would result in shortening the season from 82 to 78 games.

The league is hoping it can bring these changes up for a vote in April – when the board of governors convenes – and break them in during the 2021-22 season, which would be the NBA’s 75th anniversary.

As you might imagine, this new concept is the brainchild of commissioner Adam Silver. He has been looking for ways to broaden the interest in the league and these new changes certainly would draw attention to the NBA in a way it hasn’t seen in years.

According to ESPN, teams would be re-seeded in the semifinals of the playoffs based on their regular season record in hopes the two best teams might meet in the NBA Finals. The league is tired of the scenario that resulted in countless Finals between the Cavaliers and the Warriors.

The WNBA has been using this format for years and this season it resulted in a final-round matchup between Eastern Conference rivals – the Washington Mystics and Connecticut Sun.

Image then an NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Clippers or Celtics and the Sixers.

The in-season tournament would be designed to resemble the system used in European soccer. Of course, the entire concept of change is being sold based upon the expectation of additional television and sponsorship revenue.

The NBA is aware a majority of their teams – like the Knicks, for example – realize by Thanksgiving they have no chance to compete for the playoffs. With an in-season tournament, they would at least have a chance to get on a hot streak for two weeks and come away with something to remember the season for.

Although the idea is to shorten the regular season, there could be a scenario where a few teams could play up to 83 games because of their involvement in tournaments and play-in situations. The in-season tournament would involve 30 teams beginning with a divisional group stage of regular season games.

Adam Silver

(Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)

Six divisional winners – based on home and road records in the group stage – and the two teams with the next-best records would advance to a single-elimination knockout round.

To insure the cooperation of the players and coaches, and enliven the competition in the in-season tournament, the league would institute a bonus program that would increase through advancement.

And we all know NBA players love money.

According to the results of the preliminary discussions, the in-season tournament would begin after Thanksgiving and roll into mid-December.

There had been discussions about beginning the tournament later and ending it around the time of the All-Star Game break. But that was quickly dismissed. The league did want to risk lower viewership that might have resulted by competing with the NFL postseason. The earlier window gives the NBA a greater chance of a larger audience.

As for the play-in proposal, two four-team tournaments featuring the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th seeds in each conference would be held. The seventh seed would host the eighth seed, with the winner of that single game earning the seventh spot, league sources said.

The ninth seed would host the 10th seed, with the winner of that game facing the loser of the 7-vs.-8 matchup for the final playoff spot.

According to ESPN, early discussions about all of these changes have been generally well-received by the union, unlike the NFLPA’s reluctancy to consider ownership’s request to extend the regular season to 18 games.

Maybe it’s us, but we kind of like the NBA the way it is.