The NBA and the NBA Players Association are considering revolutionary changes in scheduling that include post-season play-in games and an in-season tournament, according to a report by ESPN.
The changes would come with a promised shortening of the regular-season schedule from 82 to 78 games. The league is said to be hoping to implement the changes in time for the 2021-22 season, the league’s 75th anniversary.
A quick summation of the proposed changes, with my initial reaction:
- The league would like to re-seed its final four playoff teams, regardless of conferences, in an effort to have the two best teams playing for the championship. Last season, for example, that would have meant Portland meeting Milwaukee on one side of the bracket, with Denver meeting Toronto on the other. The problem with this format, as with all plans based on regular-season records, is that these teams do not play the same schedules. The best teams playing in the more-competitive West could possibly – or likely – have worse records than the best teams in the East. Thus, the seeding would not be fair.
- An in-season tournament featuring all teams, an itch Commissioner Adam Silver has been trying to scratch for years, based on European soccer formats. The thought would be to inject excitement into the middle of the season and provide a new source of revenue from television. And also make up for the games lost by shortening the season. The league says it will provide financial incentives for teams to win the tournament, but I have my doubts. How much would such a championship mean to a team? I doubt the money will be enough to get them interested, because they already earn serious cash. I think for many players, they’d rather tank the first game and take the time off – and that’s just what the NBA needs, more teams trying not to win. And there’s also a problem with the timing of the tournament. You don’t want to compete with the Super Bowl, March Madness or the big college bowl games. That probably means post-Thanksgiving, which is being talked about. That's probably too early in the season for such an event.
- The league is talking about giving the bottom-feeders in the league a chance to get into the playoffs with four-team playoffs in each conference. Would these teams, in many cases battered and beaten down by all the losses, even want to play more games? Would they care? And more important, would anyone care to watch them?
A big reason for all this is the decline in NBA TV ratings. The league is suffering from LeBron James playing on the west coast, with those games just too late for east-coast viewers. And, too, what I don't hear many people talking about -- there may just too many televised games these days. Over-exposure can be a problem, particularly the games featuring lackluster teams going nowhere.
The incentive for the players to go along with this is the trimming of games off the regular season. But I wouldn't say cutting it to 78 games is much of a change -- that's less than one game a month. At the same time, I'm not sure players would wish to accept a slice of their salary that would have to come with cutting the schedule.