Morten’s Monday Morning Column: NBA Change…Not Always Good


October 21, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) shoots the basketball against Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes (22) during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Clippers 125-107. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Morten’s Monday Morning, a fresh weekly NBA installment in which I say a bunch of stuff you either overwhelmingly disagree with, or, if you’re a crazy person like myself, nods along thinking there’s logic to my words. Either camp you fall into, welcome onboard!

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The preseason has concluded and while having the NBA back (ish) is great, can we agree that eight preseason games per team is about five too many? Each team plays almost 10 percent of a regular season for no reason other than preparation, which technically training camp is for. Lowering preseason to three games obviously won’t happen due to the fact that the NBA find any proposal that entails financial sacrifice ludicrous.

(Mind you, this is a league that just signed a TV-deal worth $24 billion, and are still angling to put ads on jerseys to generate more income. Yes, it’s entirely in their right to do so, but it’s kind of like seeing a rich guy buy scratchers. It’s not a pretty sight.)

The NBA recently has been all about change. Not since the ABA/NBA merger in 1976 has the league put such emphasis on changing the structure of basketball as we know it. A lottery reform was pitched, and even voted on, during the actual preseason, a 44-minute game between Brooklyn and Boston was played, and that was after two NBA owners, separated by a mere four-and-a-half months, were disciplined for racism.

Adam Silver is still three months shy of his one-year anniversary as NBA Commissioner, but he’s had a hell of a year.

Going back to the think-tank philosophy, it’s been all over the NBA in the recent year and hasn’t been limited to just front offices or internal discussions in the league’s head offices in New York. Several media outlets have suggested improvement ideas, most notably Grantland where Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe suggested a pseudo playoff tournament, and a lottery wheel, respectively. Both ideas allegedly gained some traction in NBA circles, which proves the league is actively listening to ideas about a change in format and using the preseason for small experiments, such as the aforementioned 44-minute game which was brought up by the coaches’ union.

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  • Though, if you’re going to have a 44-minute game, why would you make it Boston against Brooklyn? Half the crowd were too busy taking selfies, while hiding the fact they were at a Nets game, and who exactly tunes in for a Boston/Brooklyn preseason game? If you want to test something, do it on a big stage and get more feedback. Scheduling it the way they did was short-sighted and never got the media traction it should have gotten.

    The point to take away from all this is the fact that Silver is aggressively pursuing ways to further advance the league. I’m not sure I see the need for it, given that they just got $24 billion to showcase their current product. I definitely hate the ads on jerseys bit, and I fear tinkering too much with the present format will alienate older generations. The current set-up isn’t perfect, and a down-the-line lottery reform would be commended, but creating tournaments to even out conferences seem like overkill.

    The West is stronger than the East now, but for some reason this is painted as being a permanent problem. From 1955 to 1970, only one Western Conference team (’58 St. Louis Hawks) won the championship. From 1989 to 1998, only Houston was a Western Conference representation winner, thanks in large part to Michael Jordan‘s baseball sabbatical.

    Despite those two dominant eras, the East/West championship breakdown stands at 37/29 which is delightfully balanced considering the 66-year span. Things will balance out eventually, so perhaps the best course of action here is showing patience. Just this summer alone, we saw Kevin Love and Pau Gasol move conference.

    Outside of the more established Cleveland and Chicago, we saw East teams like Washington, Charlotte, and Toronto show their readiness for the future, and we even have the Bucks secretly looming slightly in the distance with a Jabari Parker/Giannis Antetokounmpo duo that could prove devastating. Additionally, pending the return Boston gets in a Rajon Rondo trade – let’s be honest, it’s happening – the Celtics could have a young interesting team going into 2015-16.

    In the West, Memphis is bound to decline sooner rather than later, the Spurs will begin a mini-rebuild when Duncan retires which could be as soon as after this season, and the Lakers and Kings are locked into no man’s land for the foreseeable future. Hell, even Dirk is unlikely to stick around after his contract expires in 2017. The top dogs such as Oklahoma City and Golden State are locked into salary structures that puts severe limitation on their further movement, which means they won’t be big players in free agency.

    So what we’re looking at is a league that is inching closer and closer conference-wise, resetting the balance of talent and making the NBA as a whole more competitive. Compared to last season where it was generally believed that San Antonio and Miami would meet in the Finals once again, this coming season (starting up tomorrow evening with the Spurs and Mavs at 8:00 PM on TNT) should have more NBA Finals candidates. The Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Warriors, Blazers, and Rockets could all make postseason runs, as could the Bulls, Cavs, Wizards, Raptors, and even Hornets in the East.

    Yes, the Hornets.

    So here’s my proposal.

    For the next month, I would love for the NBA to focus on what is their primary business, and save the improvement talk for later. They have a new review central which should help refs make quicker calls, they have a plethora of talent spread more evenly out across 30 teams in large part due to a healthy draft, they have several contenders, they have stars returning healthy, and they have our attention. On paper, this could become one of the most intriguing seasons in recent memory.

    So for one passing moment, let progress remain a concept until the product proves it needed.