|NBA's playoff math still a bit confusing for some|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 13 April 2007 08:40|
Once again, the NBA's playoff math could leave more than a few people scratching their heads.
In seeking to make sure teams are rewarded for winning division championships, the league has set up a format where a better record doesn't necessarily guarantee a better seed.
``Any seeding system requires you to strike a balance between a number of considerations,'' president of league and basketball operations Joel Litvin said. ``Rewarding the division winners, rewarding teams with the best record with home court.
``You'll never have a setup that is absent of any anomalies.''
The NBA's seeding system failed last season, when San Antonio and Dallas were forced to meet in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, even though they had the two best records in the conference. Because they were both in the Southwest Division, runner-up Dallas could only be the No. 4 behind the other division winners.
After the teams delivered a postseason classic that ended with the Mavericks winning Game 7 in overtime on the road, the NBA tweaked its system, allowing a second-place team to be a No. 2 seed. But protection was still provided to the division winners, who are guaranteed a top-four seed.
``If you are going to have an unbalanced schedule with a particular emphasis on the divisions, then you have to give something for the division titles having been won,'' commissioner David Stern said. ``And we do.''
But the format still has drawn some criticism because the top three teams in the Central Division have better records than Toronto or Miami, the champions of the other divisions in the East. So Cleveland or Chicago could fall all the way to No. 5, while the Raptors would move up to third and the Heat are No. 4.
The Cavs or Bulls would still have home-court advantage against the Heat, but face a much tougher road. Going strictly by records, they would be seeded third and open against the No. 6 seed. Win that, and they would likely face the No. 2 seed in the second round.
Instead, they open against the No. 4 seed and then would likely get the top-seeded team in the conference semifinals. Still, Stern said the format ``isn't intended on punishing anybody'' and sees no reason to change.
``If you are going to have the conference transcend the division, then you are going to have to go one through eight,'' he said. ``And as long as we continue to have the unbalanced schedule through the division, we think that it's better to have the rule to credit the division winner and elevate to keep them in the top four.''
REST UP: An excellent regular season for the Dallas Mavericks is affording coach Avery Johnson a chance to rest some of his star players in the final two weeks before the playoffs begin.
The Mavericks wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the West with six games to play, and Johnson is taking advantage. He left home Dirk Nowitzki, Jerry Stackhouse and Erick Dampier, and sat Devin Harris, when the Mavs visited Minnesota on Wednesday night.
And there's going to be more where that came from.
``When our big guns, some of them, like Dirk and Dampier and Stackhouse don't play, everybody has to step up,'' Johnson said.
Some of the lesser-used players see it as a chance to wedge themselves into the playoff rotation.
Austin Croshere scored 19 points in the 105-88 victory over the Timberwolves and DeSagana Diop had a career-high 10 points and 15 rebounds.
``I think a lot of guys who don't play a lot still have a lot to prove,'' Croshere said. ``My real goal is to show Coach that I can contribute in the playoffs.''
GREEDY GASOL: Assured of the worst record in the NBA, the Memphis Grizzlies have the best chance to get the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
Forgive Pau Gasol for not sounding too excited.
So frustrated by the losing in Memphis that he hoped for a trade this season, Gasol doesn't think getting a college star alone would solve the Grizzlies' woes.
``It has to be much more than that. It is not enough,'' he said. ``A young kid is not going to make a whole lot of difference. It is going to take the right free agents, the right moves, get guys that are ready to compete and prepare for it.''
There are plenty of decisions that face the Grizzlies - including who will be the people making them. What to do with the pick and what to do with Gasol are the biggest issues involving players, but the questions go well beyond the court.
The player ones would be addressed by team president Jerry West, but it isn't known if he will remain with the Grizzlies after the draft. Also, owner Michael Heisley is still looking for someone to buy the team after a group headed by former Duke stars Christian Laettner and Brian Davis couldn't come up with the financing before a deadline expired.
And if Gasol is still around, he wants things fixed.
``All the ownership stuff needs to be resolved in some sort of way,'' Gasol said. ``There are too many things.''
SWEET 16: Having won 50 games in six straight seasons, including Central Division titles in five of them, the Detroit Pistons clearly have become one of the NBA's top franchises.
But none of those above-mentioned stats really matters.
``We don't get judged by our wins in the regular season, we get judged by our ability to get 16 wins in the postseason,'' Detroit coach Flip Saunders said.
The Pistons had the league's best record last season by winning 64 games, but the playoffs were a huge disappointment. Detroit barely survived the second round, needing seven games to get past Cleveland, then was ousted by Miami in the Eastern Conference finals.
Detroit is again the top team in the East, having wrapped up the No. 1 seed earlier this week. Though Chauncey Billups said he was proud of all the success during the season, he agreed with Saunders that it is all overshadowed by what comes next.
``When that other season starts, it's all about 16 wins,'' Billups said. ``We look at it like that. A lot of other teams that haven't really been in look at it like, 'We want to get in the first round, or we want to get into the second round.' We want to get 16 wins.''
AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.