Wednesday, April 19, 2006

No more divisions!

Yesterday's Clippers/Grizzles fiasco raised a few questions. Should you lose on purpose? Well, probably not. Besides that, though, it made us wonder: what, exactly, is the point of divisions?

We understand why they exist in sports like football and baseball - where each team isn't given the chance to compete against every other team. But in the NBA, every team gets to play eachother, so overall record is a fair indicator of who the best team is. Why can't we just take the best eight records in each conference, seed them according to who has the most wins, and move on?

You know what...we're even willing to throw out conferences in the NBA. Screw the East and the West. Take the 16 best records, regardless of conference or division, and there is your playoffs. The best 16 teams are in, no argument.

You wouldn't have embarrassing scenarios like the Griz/Clips tankfest or the East trying as hard as it can to send four teams to the playoffs with sub-.500 records.

What would change? Well, divisions, we are told, make certain games more competitive, because teams see eachother more often. Rivalries emerge. Grudges fester (and anytime something is festering, that's a good thing.) Except, well...we can't really think of any heated NBA rivalries at the moment. I guess you could call Indiana-Detroit one...but not really. Miami and the Lakers? Eh, not really, ever since Shaq and Kobe kissed and hugged. Honestly, when is the last time two teams got together and you thought to yourself, "Wow, I'd better not miss this one, who knows what could happen!?!?"

Rivalries, in the age of the free agent, exist only when teams meet repeatedly in the playoffs. Players switch teams so often, divisional rivalries just aren't that meaningful. Jonny Damon playing centerfield for the Yanks and Adam Vinatieri kicking game winners for the Colts should tell you all you need to know about the state of rivalries in pro sports. They are meaningful to the fans, but to the players? Not so much.

So let's get the 16 best teams in the playoffs. Give the fans the most competitive games. If the NBA insists on making every round 7 games and having the first round last longer than Hanukkah, the least they could do is have the 16 best teams available to watch, right?

The only confusing thing would be how to handle the All-Star Game, sans conferences. But wait! We have a solution. Continue to have the fans vote for the best players. But now, the two-highest vote getters are the captains. They can now pick their teams from the next 30 highest vote getters. They can even give their teams their own names.

And we will do this live, at half-court, right before the dunk contest. It will be like we are at recess, only we are grown up and on national TV. Seeing Yao Ming mumble through his picks, while Vince Carter imitated revving a motorcycle every time he made his pick might be exciting, we aren't sure. Plus, imagine the rivalries that would create? How pissed would the two guys who don't get picked be?

Who would be against this? No one! Is there anyone even casually interested in basketball that wouldn't be glued to their TV sets for this?

Not only would that single handedly make the All-Star game worth watching, it could intensify rivalries as well. You think Gilbert Arenas hold grudges now, wait til Vince leave him off the All-Star team. Like you wouldn't be cheering for a Washington-NJ playoff series? And if it happened? Could you even imagine the ratings.

Now, where is the guy who convinced David Stern to go to the current playoff format, where being a 6 seed is better than being a 5. We need to get this idea in that guy's head - now - because this needs to happen. It doesn't even matter if the NBA decided to keep its conferences (which it might, hey you never know). The All-Star game was just saved.

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