NBA discusses changes to playoff format, but nothing imminent
NEW YORK — NBA owners held their first serious discussions about the playoff format, though Commissioner Adam Silver said Friday it was too soon to tell if there was interest in changing it.
The playoffs will open Saturday without the Oklahoma City Thunder, who finished ninth in the Western Conference with a 45-37 record that would have made them the No. 6 seed in the weaker East. Two teams in the East field finished below .500, renewing calls to make the playoffs for the best 16 teams, instead of the current top eight in each conference.
Silver said owners reviewed data over about 30 years, while also considering the need for traditional rivalries born out of having divisions and conferences.
"When we presented all the data to the teams, what becomes clear is that there is no obvious solution," Silver said.
"It’s not to say that we don’t think there should be a change. I think this is one of these issues that is going to require a fair amount of discussion and study, not just directly among the owners in the big room, with committees as well."
Another change could come quickly. He said there were discussions about extending the 2015-16 season by a week, which he said could reduce the number of back-to-backs to an all-time low average of 16 per team, with an average of just one four-in-five-nights stretch per team.
The playoffs and draft lottery apparently will stay the same.
Silver noted the races for the final spots in both the West and East, claimed by New Orleans and Brooklyn, went down to the final night of the regular season.
"If you seeded 1 through 16, of course you wouldn’t have that," he said. "You’d just have one race to make the playoffs, so that’s one factor."
He said there was also discussion of a play-in tournament in which an undetermined number of teams would play for the No. 8 spots.
"I have to say I am intrigued by that idea," Silver said. "It’s something we’ve talked about before."
So is lottery reform, which fell short of approval in October. The current system gives the team with the worst record the best odds to win the lottery and the No. 1 pick in the draft, which could encourage tanking, or losing on purpose in hopes of getting a better pick.
Silver said owners felt they shouldn’t touch that until after the new media deals begin in 2016, which will create a huge jump in revenues and make the salary cap soar by more than $20 million to possibly $90 million. They want to see how that affects free agency and trades before touching the draft.
"Once again on the draft lottery we agreed to continue looking at it but it seems highly unlikely at this point that we’re going to make a change for next season," he said.
— On HGH testing, which will begin next season: Silver said an agreement with the union came after the players’ new leadership was in place to meet with his staff. It originally was discussed during collective bargaining in 2011, but put aside after former executive director Billy Hunter was ousted.
"I think once they got comfortable and went through the process, they ultimately said we understand this is something we had previously agreed to, we’re comfortable with the protocol, and that’s how we ended up putting out the announcement yesterday," Silver said.
— On Hawks player Thabo Sefolosha, whom Silver considers a friend, who was injured during his arrest by New York police: "Thabo has hired an attorney in New York," Silver said. "Our lawyers have been in touch with Thabo’s lawyers to try to better understand exactly what happened. We’ve been in touch with the New York Police Department to try to understand what happened, and I see our role here as a fact finder."
— On teams resting healthy players during the season: "I would say my personal view is I would rather not engage in discussions with coaches and GMs on playing time," Silver said. "I think that’s a core responsibility of the team and I think it’s a very slippery slope for the league office to start getting in the business of telling a coach or team what minutes a player should play."