NBA should give the nation what it wants – an NCAA style tournament
Once the NBA begins action again, it will be a mad dash to establish postseason positions and then play four best-of-seven series to crown a champion.
So, I have a crazy suggestion for Commissioner Adam Silver and the 30 NBA owners.
The sports nation is still sulking from cancellation of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, and the NBA could provide a one-year, win-or-go-home playoff format.
Here's how it can be done.
All teams in
After about two weeks of regular season games as a warm-up, or none) all 30 teams would qualify for the playoffs. It would work out perfectly if there were 32 teams in the NBA, but alas, there are the 30 franchises.
As a result, to get to a “Sweet 16,” the respective leaders in the Eastern and Western Conferences would get a bye in the first round. Currently, the Milwaukee Bucks (53 wins) would receive the top seed and the L.A. Lakers (49 wins) would be No. 2.
Yes, that's an advantage since it's a single elimination tournament, but both teams would still have quite a test on the road to a championship. Remember, you lose and you’re out.
Twenty-eight teams would play over the first weekend, leaving 14 winners. Add the Lakers and Bucks in the second round and there are your 16 teams.
First round matches
Depending on the number of regular season games that are made up, the playoff seedings could change, but let's create an NBA playoff bracket with the standings as they were when the season was put on hold.
The first-round bracket has teams seeded from No. 3 to No. 30. There is no separation of Western and Eastern Conference teams. If teams have the same number of wins, the higher seed goes to the team with the highest winning percentage when games ended. Teams had played either 64 or 65 games.
Here are the prospective match ups, with seed number first and number of wins in parenthesis. Throughout the tournament, the higher seed would host the game.
#30 Golden State Warriors (15) at #3 Toronto Raptors (46)
#29 Cleveland Cavaliers (19) at #4 L.A. Clippers (44)
#28 Minnesota Timberwolves (19) at #5 Boston Celtics (43)
#27 Atlanta Hawks (20) at #6 Denver Nuggets (43)
#26 Detroit Pistons (20) at #7 Utah Jazz (41)
#25 New York Knicks (21) at #8 Miami Heat (41)
#24 Chicago Bulls (22) at #9 Oklahoma City Thunder (40)
#23 Charlotte Hornets (23) at #10 Houston Rockets (40)
#22 Washington Wizards (24) at #11 Dallas Mavericks (40)
#21 Phoenix Suns (26) at #12 Indiana Pacers (39)
#20 San Antonio Spurs (27) at #13 Philadelphia 76ers (39)
#19 Sacramento Kings (28) at #14 Memphis Grizzlies (32)
#18 New Orleans Pelicans (28) at #15 Brooklyn Nets (30)
#17 Portland Trailblazers (29) at #16 Orlando Magic (30)
This is only fantasy basketball, but this would be big fun for everyone, regardless if they are big NBA fans or not.
Imagine Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors traveling to Toronto for a one-game, winner-moves-on game? The Raptors are defending world champions and they faced an injury riddled Warriors team last June in the NBA Finals. This would be the most-watched game in the first round.
San Antonio and head coach Gregg Popovich could certainly travel to Philadelphia and dispatch the puzzling 76ers. But the first real “upset” I see in this bracket is Washington beating Dallas on the road.
Bradley Beal was the second-half-of-season MVP when games were halted and, if given the chance, could win his team to a victory over the Mavericks. Luka Doncic will have fully recovered from a nagging ankle injury so the Mavs could prevail. But I’d go with the hottest hand in the league when the season went on hold – and that’s Beal.
This bracket also sets up a situation that could spell disaster for the No. 2 seed Lakers.
I’ve got Orlando winning at home over the disappointing Trailblazers in the #17 vs. #18 matchup. This would send the Magic to Milwaukee and a date with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks easily move on.
Lurking at the #18th seed are the Pelicans and rookie sensation Zion Williamson. I think they would beat the Kyrie Irving-less Nets. While he too is injured and would not play in our mythical tournament, Kevin Durant is one of four Nets players that tested positive for COVID-19. Lots of bad karma in Brooklyn.
That could put the Lakers against the Pelicans in the second round. Oh my gosh. LeBron James scored 40 points and played one of his best games of the year on Feb. 25 and the Lakers needed a late surge to top the visiting Lakers 118-109.
Look, this tournament has no chance to happen because teams have too much on the line to risk losing a single game and being out of the playoffs. But fans would love to see it.
Silver and the NBA recognized the threat of COVID-19 before any American sports league. It is also leading the way in finding a way to get games televised again.
This tournament would be something special, and would make the NBA the toast of professional sports leagues throughout the world.
NFL won’t punt on draft
The NFL has told owners, coaches, players and fans that the NFL Draft will take place as planned April 23-25.
While there will be no public events in Las Vegas, where crowds of more than 100,000 were expected to attend the outdoor gatherings, the NFL is going full steam ahead with the draft – over the disappointment in Las Vegas and complaints of several GMs who wanted the draft delayed.
“This decision reflects our foremost priority: the health and safety of all fans and citizens,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a written statement.
“Everyone recognizes that public health conditions are highly uncertain, and there is no assurance that we can select a different date and be confident that conditions will be significantly more favorable than they are today,” Goodell wrote in a memo to all franchises.
“I also believe that the draft can serve a very positive purpose for our clubs, our fans and the country at large, and many of you have agreed.”
In the memo, Goodell reportedly warned owners and front office employees to not criticize his decision to go forward with the draft.
“Public discussion of issues relating to the draft serves no useful purpose and is grounds for disciplinary action,” Goodell wrote.
While that’s a bit heavy-handed, I do agree with Goodell’s decision to hold the draft. The NFL has been a major source of enjoyment with the nation in shelter and longing for live sporting events.
NFL free-agency signings and trades have been a wonderful distraction from COVID-19. The Draft will lift the spirits of us pathetic sports fans even higher. I can’t wait.
According to the NFL, there will be a “central hub” where Goodell will announce picks.
There will be live video supplied from all 32 team locations and about 50 prospects will be part of the broadcast.
Live video from prospects’ homes and the private residences of NFL fans could also be part of the three days of the draft.
The Reid Roundup
Jay Williams, ESPN NBA analyst, suggested the NBA playoffs be held on cruise ships, with players and staff and some family members on board for up to 40 days. There would be respective Eastern and Western Conference ships. No word yet on how the NBA Finals would be held… Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens quarterback and reigning NFL MVP, has sued Amazon.com claiming the site facilitates the sale of unlicensed merchandise using his likeness… The 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls’ last championship together, “The Last Dance,” will air beginning on April 19 on ABC (channel 30) instead of in June… NFL owners voted on Tuesday to expand NFL playoff spots to 14 – an additional slot in each conference. Only one team in each conference will have a bye on Wild Card Weekend… ESPN’s bracket to determine the best NCAA basketball player of all time has come down to Larry Bird v. Michael Jordan. Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) is the best college basketball player of all time. Also, didn’t Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Michigan State beat Bird and Indiana State in the 1979 NCAA Final, the most-watched NCAA Tournament game of all time? And Jordan’s North Carolina team still could have lost the 1982 NCAA title game to Georgetown after his dramatic shot put the Tar Heels up 63-62 with seconds remaining. Hoyas guard Fred Brown mistook North Carolina’s James Worthy for a teammate and gave the game away.
Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” Reach him on Twitter at @aareid1.