While I’m excited for the real NBA season to start, I feel like it’s a bit of an overkill. First, half the teams in the league make the playoffs, eight from the East and West conference. The recent trend is that the West is more of a run-and-gun type of offense, usually racking up over 100 points per team per game. Their games are way more entertaining than the Eastern Conference, where slow, more methodical offenses are run along with slight tighter defense. More often than not, a couple of teams are below 0.500 winning percentage in the Eastern Conference. One of my concerns is why the league rewards mediocrity and even sub-par play.
The problem stems from the ridiculous playoffs and its format. Several years ago the first round used to be a five game series. Now it’s a seven game series that is basically used as a warmup for the higher seeded team. I mean, come on, does anyone think that the Portland Trailblazers can beat the Phoenix Suns? Or that the Cleveland Cavaliers might stumble to the Chicago Bulls? These games are about pure revenue. The television, concession, and merchandising revenue is in the millions for each team. While teams never actually admit to “throwing” games, it is in the best interest of the teams from the front office standpoint if they do get that extra home game.
Yesterday is a perfect example of how overblown the playoffs have become. You had an early afternoon game at 3 pm Eastern time on ABC followed by a triple-header on ESPN. It’s crazy and what’s even more baffling is how many people will watch. There is NOTHING on television right now. The NBA has done a genius job marketing and promoting their stars and matchups, making viewers curious on Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Kobe, etc. They have figured out how to sell the stars and the markets to the entire country.
I say that they should get back to the five game first round playoff system to declutter the television. The MLB only has eight teams in their playoffs out of 32 franchises. That makes the regular season matter more as well as the postseason. Those guys are working from day one of the playoffs while Lebron barely broke a sweat against the beatdown of the Bulls. That being said, there is also the issue of the leauges’ differing collective bargaining agreements. The MLB issues a luxury tax to the higher paid teams and more revenue is shared. The NBA is more of a team-take-all design. This allows for more flexibility and greediness to set in by the team executives.
As much as I love Lebron and Dwayne, I would rather see them play in games that matter from the start. I want to see quality, not quantity. But if I were a front office guy, I’d say extend the series from seven to nine games. Give the crowds and viewers all the star power they want. Let’s extract every last cent we can for revenue. So maybe, instead of watching every single game, just follow your favorite star(s) for the first round then really get into it when the Conference Finals roll around.
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