Limpag: Tweaking the NBA

DURING the end of the regular season, NBA commissioner Adam Silver made some surprise announcements. He said the league was looking at European football for inspiration for proposed changes in the 72-year-old league.

Silver, who took over for David Stern, said the 82-game schedule of the league might no longer be attuned with the times and wanted multiple competitions in a single season, citing the case of European football teams.

“It would take a while to develop those new traditions because I think initially the reaction may be ‘who cares who wins the mid-season tournament?’” Silver said in a press conference that was widely covered.

Domestic football traditionally has two competitions in a season that run concurrently--the league and the cup. In a way, you can compare that to the NBA regular season best team (league champion) and the NBA champion via playoffs (Cup), but the main difference is that in football, the league title holds more importance. Another key difference is that the cup competition is open to all professional clubs, not just the clubs in the same league.

How that will be translated to the NBA will be interesting; will the league put more emphasis on the regular season best team over the playoff champion?

But if there is one football tradition that I think the NBA should adopt, one that they can readily do is not the mid-season tournament but the concept of promotion and relegation. However, that is going to take a radical change of mindset among everyone involved in the league.

They’ve been saying for years that the league isn’t the same as before, that the competition in the modern version is watered down compared to the era of Wilt Chamberlain because of all the expansion. Well, dividing the league into two levels--First and Second Divisions--addresses that concern. And of course, as incentive for the top teams in the second division, they can be promoted to the first and the bottom teams of the first gets relegated to the second.

That way, Silver’s concern of an 82-game season as being too long and of wanting multiple tournaments will be addressed. A shorter season for a 16-team Division, two champions and you can even have a super champion between the First and Second Division winners.

It’s radical, I know but I hope it’s one of the things the league is considering. And since Silver is already looking at European football for inspiration, I think he already knows quality, not quantity, matters.

Another reason I’m hoping the league will consider this is because of its status. Other basketball leagues always look up to the NBA; heck our very own PBA usually adopts NBA rules.

One of my craziest dreams in Philippine sports is to have a multi-tiered basketball league system, with the PBA (Division 1) on top and the rest of the leagues in the other divisions. We certainly have enough teams for a three-division system, adopting the concept of promotion and relegation. But again, that needs a radical change in mindset. If Silver has his way in making radical changes in the NBA, perhaps the Philippines can tweak its league too.


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