Stern says league erred in giving Spurs early game

PHOENIX -- NBA commissioner David Stern acknowledged that it was a mistake to schedule the San Antonio Spurs to open the Western Conference semifinals with an early game Sunday.

"If we had it to do over again, we wouldn't have acceded to the network's request on that one," Stern said on Monday night.

"We could lay it off on the network, but that's our responsibility, and we have the ability to say no. And we should have."

ABC representatives were not available for comment.

San Antonio wrapped up its first-round series in Sacramento so late Friday night that it was after midnight in Texas. The Spurs spent the night in Sacramento and didn't arrive back in San Antonio until about 3 p.m. Saturday.

They tipped off their series with Dallas at noon local time on Sunday because ABC wanted to show the Cleveland-Detroit game in the more attractive later time slot. The Cleveland-Detroit game got a rating of 3.7 -- 19 percent higher than a game in the same timeslot a year ago. ABC Sports' ratings are up 19 percent over a year ago.

Despite the short turnaround, San Antonio won the game 87-85.

"The quick turnaround has nothing to do [with anything]," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters after the game. "You're happy to get by in any game in the playoffs with a win. A win is a wonderful thing in the playoffs and a loss is devastating. It all depends on how you handle it."

The commissioner also said Monday that the NBA probably would change its playoff seeding format.

"I think we're just talking about taking the four teams in each conference with the best records and seeding them one through four," he said.

Under the current format, the three division champions earn the top three seeds, followed by the remaining team with the best record. That's why San Antonio and Dallas are meeting in the second round, even though they have the two best records in the West.

Stern was in Phoenix to present Steve Nash with the Most Valuable Player trophy before the Suns opened their second-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers.

The long-suffering Clippers had been the butt of jokes in the league for years.

"Over the years I used to say to our broadcasting department that this is the year we should put the Clippers on the TV schedule," Stern said, "and they would say, 'David, go back into your office,' and I did. So wishing didn't make it so."

Now that the Clippers have climbed into respectability, Stern said, "I feel great for their fans who have supported them over the years. Once every 30 years I think is good at a minimum for a team to get to the second round."

Stern said that if a team is "well-managed over time, it will make it into the playoffs and management should be held accountable if you don't. The Clippers have had a dry spell, shall we say, yet their fans have supported them in increasing numbers over the year and I am delighted for the fans."

He said that he at one point favored moving the Clippers to Orange County.

"Shows you what I know," Stern said. "They're doing great in Staples Center. I'm hoping to catch a game there sometime this round."

Stern had harsh words for the talk of an NBA "conspiracy" to get the Lakers and Clippers in an all-Los Angeles second-round series. The Suns had to rally from a 3-1 deficit to oust the Lakers.

It was not the first time that the league had been accused of wanting to arrange a specific matchup or favor a certain team.

"I'm embarrassed for the media, actually, when the issue gets raised," Stern said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.