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Adam Silver: NBA to consider doing away with divisions

Dec 10, 2013, 10:16 AM EDT

NBA Commissioner David Stern Announces Retirement Getty Images

Our own D.J. Foster asked this question in the Extra Pass this morning and he is not the only one:

What is the point of the divisions in the NBA anymore?

Teams don’t play the other teams in their division more than other teams now — the NBA has a “balanced schedule” where teams play everyone in their conference four times and every team in the other conference twice (with some tweaks, that would be 86 games so a few teams get played less).

When it comes time for the playoffs the teams are seeded by conference, the only time divisions sort of matter is if you win your division you are guaranteed a top 4 seed in the postseason. Which means if the playoffs started today the 10-12 Boston Celtics would be guaranteed a four seed rather than sliding down to the seven seed where they would land naturally. If the goal is to get the best teams in the playoffs, why should Boston 9or any team) get that bump?

Commissioner in waiting Adam Silver (who takes over Feb. 1 when David Stern steps down) was on the new Sirius XM NBA channel Tuesday (Channel 217, take a listen it is pretty good from what I have heard) on the show “Long Range,” hosted by Ian Eagle and Steve Kerr and said the divisions are going to get a hard look.

“As David said, the league is in such great shape. I mean, Steve (Kerr) and I were talking basketball the other night out in Brooklyn and [he] raised the same question with me about whether divisions have outlived their usefulness. One thing I have learned from David over all those years…one thing he taught me and all of my colleagues at the NBA is every day we should wake up and take a fresh look at everything we do. And I think divisions fall into that category. Obviously historically, based on geography in terms of weighted schedule and convenience of travel, the goal was to enhance rivalries and I’m not sure if that’s still what’s happening and so that’s something I’m sure that the competition committee, when it next meets, will be taking a fresh look at.”

The rivalries in the NBA are just fine right now with the balanced schedule — the Knicks and Nets fans don’t need a division to dislike each other the same way being in separate conferences never harmed the Lakers/Celtics rivalry.

Ditch the divisions. It’s time to move on.

  1. 2016olympics - Dec 10, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    Makes sense.

    • spthegr8 - Dec 10, 2013 at 11:22 AM

      ^^^^ It does make sense and I’m all for it. If they switch over too this system, it will make for better basketball.I’m SICK of seeing the best team like Miami end up playing the Buck’s in the 1st Rd. It makes me wish I could just Fast Forward the whole series cuz we all know the Bucks don’t have a chance!! ( No disrespect Buck’s fan’s, just an example ) I’m not saying your gonna see more upset’s but I’m willing to bet it makes the series MUCH more competitive series.I’m Just Saying”!!!^^^^

      • frankgarrett - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:12 PM

        get a job

      • spthegr8 - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:24 PM

        @Frank
        Get of my D………..

      • miamatt - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:39 PM

        Uhhh, The Heat would have played the Bucks last year, with or without divisions. Dropping divisions would just mean we don’t get a undeserving team artificially elevated to top 4 status. It won’t change 1v8 mismatches one iota.

      • redbaronx - Dec 11, 2013 at 12:29 PM

        @spthegr8 – Doing away with Divisions doesn’t mean Adam is thinking of doing away with seeding. You’ll still probably have a system where the #1 seed plays the #8. Being a #1 seed doesn’t assure you of beating a #8 every year. Some years the 8 seed is strong. Like when Denver beat Seattle back in the 90’s. Or when the Wizards with C-Webb and Howard played the Bulls in 97 (I think that was the year)

  2. hdsnake867 - Dec 10, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    Makes sense? The NBA making sense does not compute. For example: the new delay of game rule regarding the scorer touching the ball as it goes through the hoop. Now we have to walk down to the other end of the court to shoot a free throw, then walk back to the other end of the court to inbound the ball. It seems like its the NBA who’s delaying the game. Having conference divisions are a good tradition. Want to change things around? Make the 3 division winners the top 3 seeds in each conference and then add 5 wild card teams for each conference.

  3. miamatt - Dec 10, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    The only way divisions have a place is if the schedule is non-balanced. But the 82 game season isn’t going anywhere, and playing each conference rival four times a year is quite enough. I like this idea.

    Still, it might make the sports page look a bit less elegant, what with the East and West essentially becoming a 15 team list.

    • redbaronx - Dec 11, 2013 at 12:37 PM

      @miamatt – I think you hit the nail on the head about the main problem with this idea. It creates less news when you don’t have division leaders or for casual fans looking at standings.

      With that being said, I think just having 1 through 8 seeds duke it out will be much more entertaining, and the matchups at playoff time will be much better.

  4. davidly - Dec 10, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    If you’re gonna do this, why stop half way? The argument that the best teams are not in the playoffs is not remedied as long as their are any divisions whatsoever–ie. conferences.

    • redbaronx - Dec 11, 2013 at 12:41 PM

      @davidly – There’s a very good reason for not getting rid of the conferences. When it comes to travel and scheduling, it gives the NBA a way to organize where you play more teams in your geographic half of the United States, and other teams on the other side of the country a bit less. 4/2 format (4 games vs conference rivals and 2 vs. non-conference) is probably still a good idea. It also keeps the relevance of a West representative vs. an East representative, and anyone that is into the history of the NBA and knows the “styles” that have applied (West more free flowing / East more defensive and rough), will still appreciate the conference organization.

      Divisions, however, I think should definitely be eliminated.

      • davidly - Dec 11, 2013 at 1:41 PM

        Again: if wanting to have the best teams in the playoffs is one’s goal, and one measure you take to achieve it is eliminating divisions, then not eliminating conferences, also, displays either illogic, or that the goal wasn’t to have the best teams in the playoffs.

        Anyway, my question was as rhetorical as not; you delivered a perfect answer to that question–which is tradition.

        It is possible to have all of the above (ie. including the sentiments expressed by you in some of your replies):

        – Top 16 records go to the playoffs. Period.

        – Keep the divisions for the sake of Division Champs.

        – Keep the conferences for scheduling and seeding purposes.

        – And in the highly unliklihood that the Conference Champ doesn’t have a top 16 record, the last thing we need is a “free flowing” vs. “tough D” final.

      • redbaronx - Dec 11, 2013 at 7:10 PM

        @davidly – I think I’ve changed my mind since my last reply to you. I’m starting to agree with your position more after reading some other people’s thoughts on this. Keeping the Divisions for the sake of historical purposes to show you had a banner up for a successful season in your division, but strict 1 – 16 playoff seeding by record.

        Note: We’ve been having the West vs. East style teams in the Finals for years. That isn’t going to change I think no matter what. It’s just the style that teams happen to play. West teams are more fun and gun. East is more lockdown, D and tough. Always has been connected to the personalities of the cities and I suspect it will continue to be that way no matter what.

      • davidly - Dec 12, 2013 at 8:09 AM

        Exactly. And to the last point: frankly, the likelihood of a Eastern–or, as the case may someday be–a Western Conf team not making the playoffs is pretty slim.

        Nevertheless: with a 1-16 seeding system, and East vs. East or West vs. West final becomes much more likely. My idea was to fudge it a bit, and steer the early matchups to decrease the likelihood of that happening, but I don’t think you can be fair and eliminate the possibility at the same time.

  5. jcmeyer10 - Dec 10, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    As a Celtics fan, I say bullocks! All joking aside it’s for the best.

  6. brianscalabrine - Dec 10, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    Get rid of the divisions, keep the conferences for scheduling and road trip purposes, and just take the top 16 teams from the whole league, regardless of conference. If the playoffs ended today, I’d rather see Memphis and Golden State in the playoffs than the Pistons and Bobcats.

    • redbaronx - Dec 11, 2013 at 12:43 PM

      @brianscalabrine – I think most people would agree with you, with the exception of 16 teams regardless of conference in the playoffs. I’d still like to see the division of 1-8 in the West play, 1-8 in the East play, and a Final between the West and East representatives.

  7. brianscalabrine - Dec 10, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    Playoffs started*. My bad.

  8. tigerpork - Dec 10, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    Since they’re thinking of getting rid of divisions…why not also get rid of bad teams. Milwaukee,Utah, etc

    • 12is3times4 - Dec 12, 2013 at 2:28 PM

      It’s not so much the teams that are bad right now that could be contracted, as the teams with no realistic hope of ever developing into real contenders simply because their markets are unattractive to the star players they need to attract and keep around. That said, Milwaukee probably tops that list too.

      Back on topic, TV is also a major factor against scrapping the conferences and/or divisions. The NHL just adopted a new unbalanced alignment (16 teams in the Eastern Conference, all located in the Eastern Time Zone; 14 in the West; all in the other time zones; with the Western divisions also broken down roughly along time zones). In a nutshell, this was done because the ETZ teams want to play as few games as possible in time zones behind the ETZ, as local TV viewership tends to suffer from the later start times.

      For this reason, not only are the NBA’s conferences not going away any time soon, but I doubt its divisional structure is either. More likely, the NBA will follow the NHL’s lead and recast the divisions based at least roughly on time zones, again for TV purposes.

  9. savvybynature - Dec 10, 2013 at 11:28 AM

    The real problem is that the East is terrible, not that we have divisions. The Celtics being a 4th or 7th seed doesn’t really matter, as whoever gets that 4th seed in the East won’t be deserving of such a spot anyway.
    If we want to make changes due to the crappy teams in the playoffs, how about just going back to a 5-game series in the first round? Oh yeah, can’t do that because it would mean less ticket revenue, but really, do we need to see the Heat v. Bucks in a 7-game series? I wouldn’t even watch one game of that series.

    • redbaronx - Dec 11, 2013 at 12:49 PM

      @savvybynature – Even though the 5 game format would probably never come back due to revenue, I agree with your thinking. It was a LOT more exciting when a crappy team won a game one in those series, or even won the 5 game series. Those used to be some of the best series in the playoffs.

  10. spursareold - Dec 10, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    lol @ Stern “taking a fresh look at things daily”. It’s only with that old coot almost out the door that we get rid of that STUPID 2-3-2 Finals format.

  11. spursareold - Dec 10, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    As for the divisions, it’s honestly the only banner that most teams will ever hang in the rafters.

  12. klownboy - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:06 PM

    I love the no divisions idea. That way, the BEST EIGHT TEAMS make the playoffs – meaning if the Celtics won their sorry-a$$ division with a sub-.500 record they shouldn’t participate. I am all for it.

  13. lawson1974 - Dec 10, 2013 at 5:40 PM

    No, NO, NOOOOOOO. Don’t do it.

    Don’t have a stupid knee jerk reaction to the problem of the moment and ruin rivalries.

  14. dremmel69 - Dec 10, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    I think this is bass-ackwards. Time to get rid of the conferences, not divisions. Either that or seed playoff teams without respect to conference. I hate making the Finals anti-climactic 50% of the time due to some East/West conference designation. THAT makes no sense.

    • pcsurfer - Dec 10, 2013 at 8:28 PM

      Totally agree. When the Lakers won in 2000 and 2002, the memorable highlights for me were from the West Finals 7-game barn burner series — the Kobe to Shaq alley oop and the Robert Horry 3 pointer. Those should have been the NBA Finals.

      An absolute seeding would guarantee the best teams will always play each other in the big one and there wouldn’t be this stupid Leastern Conference nonsense. Right now, a bunch of West teams with winning records are out while many sub-.500 East teams would all be in the playoffs. Why pray and hope it balances out every year?

      • redbaronx - Dec 11, 2013 at 12:53 PM

        @pcsurfer – I was against scrapping the Conferences in my earlier posts, but you made a really good point with the Finals between 2000-2002. You knew going in that the Western Conference Finalist would win the NBA Finals. Philly and New Jersey were clearly inferior teams that had no business seeing a Finals.

        I think I have to agree with your line of thinking. Seed 1 through 16 College style

  15. 1509lucky - Dec 10, 2013 at 7:21 PM

    Do it! And while you’re at it,reduce the schedule too! A 58 game schedule with everyone playing each other twice would make the league much more exciting as well as best of 7 in EVERY ROUND of The Playoffs! Fewer games puts tickets at premium which means you could charge more for them

    • redbaronx - Dec 11, 2013 at 12:56 PM

      @1509lucky – That’s never gonna happen. Too much money involved in those 82 games. We already have best of 7 every round…

  16. dinofrank60 - Dec 10, 2013 at 7:36 PM

    Too many teams in the league Get rid of ten teams. Then we can talk schedule and divisions.

    • davidly - Dec 11, 2013 at 2:13 AM

      I think you’re on the right track: A commenter a while back–I can’t remember his name/moniker–suggested doing like Euro soccer, by which a number of teams at the bottom get demoted to a lower league, and conversely the same number in the lower league get promoted to the main league–at the conclusion of each season.

      This way, next season, the Bucks and Kings, or whoever, could root for their teams to win the B-league an advance. I think this would improve the overall parity/competitiveness.

      • redbaronx - Dec 12, 2013 at 11:38 AM

        @davidly – I’m not a commentator, but that was my suggestion with a second tier league and demotions in response to posts articles about tanking.

  17. unxpexted1 - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:26 AM

    I think the league should limit the amount of teams that can make the playoffs. There is 15 teams in each conference, no way more than half should make the playoffs. Cut it from 8 to 6, or have some sort of first round bye’s. No need to have 1 vs 8 seeds.

    • redbaronx - Dec 11, 2013 at 1:09 PM

      @unxpexted1 – Not a bad idea! As much as I like your idea of limiting the playoffs to 12 teams total, I doubt it would even be considered. Less playoff teams mean less money and games as well as dissatisfied owners that they have less of a chance to make the playoffs. So that would probably die at any Board of Governers vote.

      With that being said, I think if fans supported certain things like a 1st round best of 5, I think the NBA might consider it if that had a lot of fan support. The NBA knows that right now the 1st round series, while revenue generators at 7 games, are real boring yawners that fans can’t bear to watch. 5 game series will cut out bad teams faster, and make it more exciting if a low seed makes it competitive. That way they’re really not losing many games because series will at least go to three games and may stretch out to the full five, and keep fans engaged.

  18. omniusprime - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:58 AM

    Just great, another ignorant moron to run the NBA. It’s really stupid to get rid of divisions while keeping conferences. If you want to get rid of something worthless then get rid of the eastern cream puff conference, the worst conference in any pro sport ever.

    Just look how the playoffs are shaping up this season, in the eastern cream puff conference there are about 4 or 5 teams below .500 who will make the playoffs while in the strong Western Conference there are two or three teams above .500 who won’t make the playoffs. Better to get rid of conferences and allow the best teams to enter the playoffs.

    As always ignorant sports pundits ask the wrong questions and focus on the completely absurd. It’s really stupid to ask about getting rid of divisions when it’s the conferences that are the real problem. Trust another moronic sports pundit to back another idiot sports pundit, huh Kurt?

    Ditch Conferences!

    • redbaronx - Dec 11, 2013 at 12:59 PM

      @omniusprime – Just because Adam Silver didn’t mention scrapping the Conferences for the playoffs, doesn’t mean that it won’t be considered or implemented when this gets to the competition committee. Chill on calling him “an ignorant moron”! The guy hasn’t even taken up the job yet, so he can’t talk fully about what he’d like to do with the media. You should be happy he’s even talking about it this early before Stern leaves. That’s a good sign that he’s open to making some real change!

  19. teedraper - Dec 11, 2013 at 3:57 PM

    Keep the divisions! Don’t listen to hacks that write articles for a living

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