NBA to address playoff format problem

HOUSTON -- The two best teams in the Western Conference are on course to meet in the second round of the playoffs, which is a problem.

Even David Stern recognizes as much, which is why his league is taking a closer look at changing the postseason seeding format to prevent similar scenarios from unfolding in the future.

Under rules implemented when the league expanded from four divisions to six last season, the top three seeds go to each of the division leaders, with the fourth through eighth seeds going to the teams with the next best records in the conference.

The Dallas Mavericks (41-11) currently lead the Southwest Division by one game over the San Antonio Spurs (40-12), who have the second-best record in the conference but would drop into the fourth seed if they failed to win the division.

"I think the one thing there may be some interest in ... would be to maybe look at how you seed the top four teams," deputy commissioner Russ Granik said Saturday. "One thing that we have kicked around is whether you might say, all right, those same four teams are going to get the top four seeds, but maybe you do it in accordance with their records."

The issue will come up for further discussion when the league's competition committee meets in June.

Granik all but ruled out giving playoff berths to the top eight teams in each conference, saying the league wanted to keep an incentive for winning the division. He also said the league has no interest in re-seeding teams after each round of the playoffs.

Other matters addressed by Stern and Granik at the commissioner's annual All-Star news conference included:

• Stern discounted the possibility of moving All-Star Weekend overseas, a notion he had considered in the past. The 2007 game will be in Las Vegas, and the league is negotiating with New Orleans for the 2008 game. "We really don't think there's an overseas destination that makes sense for us from a building perspective. And in addition, we don't really currently have the time within the schedule to do something like that."

• On the issue of the Seattle SuperSonics relocating if they cannot win approval for public financing of a new arena, Stern sounded as though he'd support a move after the team's lease expires in 2010. "I think if the situation is not ultimately improved ... I think the Board of Governors would be inclined to listen to their partner's request for an opportunity to be in a place where there is a good lease and a good facility," he said.

• Stern also was unequivocal in saying the Hornets would return to New Orleans for the 2007-08 season, though he complimented Oklahoma City by saying it had proved itself as a major league city. He also said he had spoken to representatives from Kansas City, San Diego and Anaheim, Calif., about those cities' interest in attracting an NBA team, although expansion is not in the league's immediate plans.

• Pushing back a timetable he established prior to the season, Stern said he expected to name a new deputy commissioner to replace the departing Granik sometime in April.

• Speaking of the league's decision to hold the 2007 All-Star Game in Las Vegas, Stern said it was not a "dry run" for possibly relocating an NBA franchise there, reiterating that he would remain opposed to such a move as long as casinos in that state continue to accept wagers on NBA games. "We have one issue with Las Vegas, and it's not about gambling, as I've said. Forty states have lotteries, and those that don't have Indian reservations with gambling establishments, or video poker in their eating establishments, so everybody gambles now. Whether that's right or wrong, that's state government policy that's been left to the states, and that's what America does."