The Warriors are worried.
Now that another season’s frost has given way to thoughts of light jackets and tee times (at least in most of the country), another annual rite has emerged – the debate over reseeding for the NBA Playoffs.
This year, the discussion has taken on a new tone. Rather than parroting the merits of reseeding teams after the opening round of the playoffs, reseedologists are promotion the idea of that the top 16 teams, on the basis of record and regardless of conference, should qualify for the NBA’s postseason and be seeded accordingly. Now the top eight teams in each conference qualify with the respective conference champs meeting in a tradition East v West showdown.
The new debate was ignited by the possibility that for the first time ever a team with 50 victories might not qualify for the playoffs. With 48 wins, Golden State could win its last two games and still “Go home” should they finish tied with Denver for the eighth playoff spot. Critics wail that such a event would be a travesty, particularly since five Eastern conference teams will qualify for the playoffs with fewer than 50 wins. As many as three Eastern jugger-nots might even finish with sob .500 records.
Under the Top 16 plan, Toronto, Philadelphia and Portland (all sitting today at 40-40) would be battling for the 15th and 16th seeds, while The Warriors and Nuggets would be comfortably nestled in the 11th and 12th place, dialing it back in the last few weeks rather than sweating like, well, Isiah Thomas.
The idea stinks. Call me an old-school traditionalist if you want but I just don’t see it – for a number of reasons. Emotionally. I can’t even fathom a Lakers-Celtics series – which, if if occurred this season, would be the first such renewal in the playoffs since 1987! – in some preliminary round rather than in the Finals with all of the history and the emotion and the spit on the line. Sure it might be a great series but without the last team standing hoisting the trophy, that’s all it is – a great series.
Moreover, no enterprise worth a damn would make such a fundamental alternation of its structure and practices based on a historical glitch. This is season is an aberration is ways almost too numerous to count – superstar trades (from Garnett to Gasol to Shaq), historical turnarounds (Boston), unlikely MVPs (Chris Paul?) and a 50-win team potentially watching the postseason party with a remote control.
The latter speaks more to the woeful nature of the East than to the greatness of teams out West, a gap that has long existed but never to this degree. In fact, I’d argue that because of the disparity a 50-win season isn’t such a big deal since many of those triumphs came against the likes of Miami, Milwaukee, Charlotte, the Knicks and even surprisingly pitiful Chicago. Sure the West has dogs in Seattle Memphis, Minnesota and, as always, the Clips, but I’d still take that four over the East’s Fumbling Four.
Interestingly, six times in the last decade have Western conference teams with better records than their Eastern counterparts been left outside wishing in. (Once, one team qualified while another with the identical record did not) Here they are:
2000-01 -In: Indiana (41-41); Out: Seattle (44-38), Houston (45-37)
2002-03 – In: Orlando, Milwaukee (42-40), Houston (43-39)
2003-04 – In: New York (39-43), Boston (36-46); Out: Utah (42-40)
2004-05 – In: New Jersey (42-40); Out: (Minnesota (44-38)
2005-06 – In: Milwaukee (40-42); Out: Utah (41-41)
2006-07 – In: Orlando (40-42); Out: Lakers (40-42)
In none of those seasons did the world stop spinning on its axis. Neither will it this season, either.
Golden State, you are on the first tee.