ATLANTA -- The disparity between the Eastern Conference and Western Conference in the NBA has never been wider than it is at the start of this season. There are only two teams in the East with a winning record, and the 12th-place team in the West would be tied for the third seed in the East if the season ended today.
But don’t look for the NBA to ever change the current playoff format to accommodate for this disparity. Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who is on the NBA’s competition committee, said he doesn’t think a one-season discrepancy would force the league to consider taking the 16 teams with the best records instead of the top eight teams from the East and West.
"No. How many times has this happened?" Rivers said Wednesday. "We should never overdo it. I do believe [the best] 16 teams is great, but I don’t think logistically that would work. It would be very hard to do, and, the thing is, you don’t play the same teams. If the East is better, they don’t play the West as many times. [Schedule balance is] not fair, so you have to keep the conferences."
"In the Eastern Conference, there are better teams than their record," Rivers said. "It’s just so early, and everyone is piling on them now, especially Brooklyn and New York because people want them right now. When someone sees a good team struggling, it’s all all-out attack in our league. It’s not a very nice league in that way."
Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was on the San Antonio Spurs' coaching staff for 18 seasons before coming to the East this season. When asked if he would be in favor of a format in which the 16 best records in the league made it to the playoffs, he smiled.
"Not now that I’m in the East," he said.
The Hawks entered Wednesday at 9-10, which was the fifth-best record in the conference. Budenholzer, however, agreed with Rivers that the disparity usually evens out over time.
"I think those things always change, and it’s year to year," he said. "I think the teams in the East, I think there may have been a slow start and the records may be deceiving. I think there are a lot of good teams over here. It’s been set up this way for a long time, and I don’t see anything ever changing. There will be a swing and there will be 10 good teams in the East and two good teams in the West at some point, I’m sure."