A rash of injuries and struggles to play under trade rumors resulted in the Los Angeles Lakers limping into the All-Star break with a 28-29 record and sitting outside the Western Conference playoff picture.
There’s a much different story in the Eastern Conference, however. Both the Charlotte Hornets and Detroit Pistons are in the playoffs with sub-.500 records. The Miami Heat (26-30) and Orlando Magic (27-32) remain in the hunt.
The lack of balance between the conferences has amplified a debate about changing the playoff format to simply rank the whole NBA from Nos. 1-16, doing a much more college basketball style of seeding.
It would be a change Lakers owner Jeanie Buss would get behind. She explained why perceived travel issues would not apply under the oft-discussed format switch, via the “The Lowe Post“:
“You know, it’s very interesting. I can’t really find the argument against it. … The travel, you’ve got to keep in mind in the playoffs you never play back-to-back games. So even with the increased travel, I think the way the league has added a week to the season, if we can continue to expand our calendar, then the travel doesn’t become so much of an issue to determine that one through 16.”
Those who say that travel would be an issue have often suggested shortening the regular season to make room for extra rest days between playoff games to allow for the travel time. Buss was adamantly against this idea, because of the domino effect on records:
“What I will not debate is cutting the season. You can’t take back 82 games. Now you’re going to start changing the record books, now you can’t really compare. To me, it’s about the legacy (not financial implications). Some things you just can’t change. … I just won’t debate cutting the amount of games.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has made it clear that changing the playoff format is a point of discussion, although realistically changes wouldn’t occur for a few years.
For now, the Lakers will have to focus on making the playoffs the normal way, and that first involves getting everybody healthy and not digging too big of a hole before that happens.
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