NBA scheduling proposals won't fix tanking problem

USA Today

NBA scheduling proposals won't fix tanking problem

Adam Silver is one of the most forward-thinking commissioners we’ve seen among the major sports leagues in the modern era.

Silver is always willing to consider ways to make the NBA product more competitive and marketable. Last Friday the league floated a plan under consideration with the Players’ Association and media partners to implement significant changes for the league’s 75th anniversary season in 2021-22.

Let’s start with the idea of re-seeding the last four teams standing in the playoffs. The NBA would love to get the past possible finals match-up, so instead of going with the traditional East/West conference finals format, the league would seed the remaining teams one through four based on regular season records and have one play four and two against three with the surviving teams moving on to the finals.

Some would argue this proposal doesn’t go far enough, that the NBA should seed the top 16 teams regardless of conference and go from there. But the league is concerned about the travel issues that could come into play in the early rounds and is advocating the more modest proposal of seeding the Final 4.

The idea to hold an in-season tournament for all 30 teams comes from a format used in European soccer leagues. Basically, the plan is to hold the tournament between Thanksgiving week and Christmas when most of the country’s attention is focused on the NFL and the college football conference championship games.

It’s hard to say whether this will generate a great deal of interest from sports viewers, but it certainly won’t hurt, since the tournament games will count as part of the regular season schedule. And, it gives teams another chance to hold up a trophy and hoist a championship banner.

Speaking of the schedule, the league is also considering reducing the amount of regular season games from 82 to 78 to make room for a playoff play-in for the final two spots in each conference. Under the proposal, the teams that finish with the seventh and eighth seeds in each conference would play one game at the end of the season to be awarded the seventh seed, while the ninth and tenth seeds will play each other for a shot at taking on the loser of the 7-8 game.

The winner of that game would earn the eighth and final seed.

The league is hoping that letting two more teams in each conference have a shot at the playoffs will add excitement in several cities, create more fan interest and reduce the incentive for teams to tank late in the season for better draft lottery odds.

Major League Baseball has had success with the drama and excitement created by the winner take all wild card format, and the NBA could benefit as well, although one could argue since 16 of the 30 teams already qualify for the playoffs, is there really a need to try to get more teams involved?

The bigger flaw comes from the idea that giving four more teams (two in each conference) the chance to experience post-season excitement will reduce tanking.

I think the league should be more aggressive in battling the problem. My proposal would be to take the bottom ten teams at the All-Star break (five in each conference) and have them compete for spots in the draft order. The team among the bottom ten that finishes with the best record after the All-Star break (approximately 25-30 games) gets the number one draft pick, the team with the second-best record gets the second pick and so on.

This would provide incentive for teams to play their regulars for the remainder of the season and have a tangible reward for winning games. Instead of seeing non-playoff contenders embellish injuries and limit minutes of key players to have a better chance at losing, we would see all 30 franchises trying to win games all the way to the final day of the regular season.

And, if one of the bottom ten goes on an incredible late run to the make the playoffs? Fine, let them have the number one pick and the playoff spot.

The league probably wouldn’t go with this proposal because it would penalize teams that suffer significant injuries early in the season and can’t put their best players on the court after the All-Star break. But for all of us who have watched the Bulls play meaningless games over the last two seasons with G-League call-ups in the rotation, the idea of playing for something over the final two months is definitely an improvement.

Plus, eliminating the lottery system that awards the top picks to teams based on blind luck has clearly outlived its usefulness. The new and improved 2019 lottery didn’t work, with the worst teams dropping in the draft order, and the New Orleans Pelicans rewarded with the top pick following an ugly stand-off with franchise star Anthony Davis after the trade deadline that improved their lottery odds.

Adding the play-in chance for the ninth and tenth seeds is a good first step to reduce tanking, but if Silver really wants to fix the system he should let teams earn those precious high draft picks by winning games late in the season.

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Report: ‘About 75 percent’ of NBA GMs voted for play-in tournament in survey

Report: ‘About 75 percent’ of NBA GMs voted for play-in tournament in survey

The NBA recently issued a survey to general managers to measure the league’s temperature on various formats for the season to restart in, as first reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic. 

The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor has obtained the results of said survey. The findings are as follows:

  • Half of the league’s general managers voted to skip straight to a 16-team postseason (bye, Bulls)

  • “Just over half” of the league’s general managers voted to reseed a hypothetical 16-team postseason by record, independent of conference

  • “About 75 percent” of the league’s general managers voted for a play-in tournament that would pit fringe playoff teams against each other to decide the final seeds of a playoff (O’Connor reported the Lakers and Bucks to favor this format)

  • The remaining 25 percent of the league’s general managers voted for a playoff featuring World Cup-esque group stage first round

Of note: The Bulls currently own the 24th-best record (22-43) in the NBA. It's not specified how many teams each of the above models would involve, but if that answer ends up being less than 24 (and the remainder of the regular season ends up being skipped), the Bulls would not be going to Disney World.

What does this mean for the NBA’s larger decision on how to format a relaunch of its season? Evidently, not much. Early Thursday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Friday’s Board of Governors call will not include a vote on a plan to return to play. O’Connor echoed that sentiment in his reporting, including a quote from an unnamed GM that read: “Adam isn’t taking the results seriously… Every team is obviously gonna vote for what’s best for them.”

Instead, O’Connor posited that Silver might be using this opportunity to gauge league-wide interest in various schedule innovations moving forward. This would fit Silver’s MO. Even before the coronavirus pandemic halted the sports world, the NBA had long pondered and pushed for the idea of an in-season tournament as a way to drum up interest. In a time of financial strife for the league, interest has never been more at a premium than it is now, or will be next season.

Still, Silver and company have more immediate fish to fry, in terms of hammering down a format for finishing the 2019-20 campaign. Potential formats, timelines and so on will reportedly be discussed Friday. As of this writing, 22 of 30 teams have opened their practice facilities for limited, voluntary, individual workouts (a trend the Bulls may follow suit in come Friday), but all of them are awaiting direction on what’s to come — the players reportedly as anxiously as anyone.


For now, that’s all any of us can do.

RELATED: Where the Bulls stand in each of the NBA’s reported resumption plans

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Michael Jordan toy collector gives story behind the rarest of his figurines

Michael Jordan toy collector gives story behind the rarest of his figurines

The rarest Michael Jordan toy in the world you’ve probably never seen or heard of. That’s because it was never released.

Jordan Cohn and BJ Barretta of Radio.com got to the bottom of that age-old — though rarely asked about — mystery by interviewing Joshua De Vaney, the most prolific purveyor of Jordan toys in the world. 

De Vaney hails from Australia, and a perusal of his Instagram page reveals a trinket closet of staggering scale.

In the interview, De Vaney pinpointed the rarest of the bunch to be this rather unassuming batch of figurines, which were manufactured by a company called Ohio Art.

De Vaney told Radio.com they’re prototype models of a Jordan-themed H.O.R.S.E. game from 1987 that never made it to production.

“I got into contact with the Ohio Art archives department which told me… that there were only 48 of these available, and I was in possession of 33 of them at the time,” De Vaney told Cohn. “That’s when he was looking at leaving Nike. And the reason why that’s so important is because the shoe that this toy is wearing is a Nike Air Ship.”

In fact, they’re so difficult to procure that even Michael Jordan himself couldn’t get his hands on them. De Vaney told Radio.com he recently shipped one to Michael’s second-oldest son Marcus, bringing his collection from 33 to 32.

Now, as reported by Radio.com, he’s on a mission to bring his collection to the United States, and expand its platform.

“For me, it’s truly about getting my collection over to the States either to be exhibited in museums… (or) I would like to donate it to Michael,” De Vaney said in the interview. “So I’m certainly not out trying to make a dollar off of it, I would just like to give this to Michael as part of his legacy for people to enjoy.”

A noble mission, and one that will be fascinating to track, if De Vaney’s social media account is any indication of how his passion for Jordan runs.

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