Stern discusses flawed NBA playoff structure

Updated: May 15, 2006, 11:35 PM ET
Associated Press

DALLAS -- Maybe this will make Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban feel better about his $200,000 fine from the NBA last week: Cuban's club has forced a likely change in the playoff format.

NBA commissioner David Stern discussed a new seeding system Monday aimed at fixing the flaw the Mavericks exposed this season. The Mavs won 60 games, but were seeded fourth behind the three division winners despite a better record.

That's why Dallas and San Antonio, both in the Southwest Division, are meeting in the second round despite having the two best records in the Western Conference.

Under the new proposal, the top four seeds would be slotted by record among the three division winners and the team with the next-best record. Had that been in place this season, the Spurs still would have been No. 1, but the Mavericks would have been No. 2. And they couldn't have met until the conference finals.

The team with the better record -- regardless of seed -- would also have home-court advantage in a series under the new system.

Stern said it was important to keep rewarding division winners in the new system, which still must be approved by the league's competition committee.

"I think if you're going to have a division structure, then give some credibility to that fact," Stern said.

Before Monday's game, Stern visited with Cuban while the outspoken owner worked out on a stair-stepper machine in the Mavericks' locker room. Cuban was wearing a T-shirt that read "Payback time" and told Stern the workout was his pregame ritual.

Last week, Cuban was fined for going on the court to complain about the officiating and for critical comments he made in a blog entry under the title, "How to improve NBA Playoff Officiating."

In the blog, Cuban called the current way officials are chosen for the playoffs a "huge problem." He went on to suggest the league rank referees based on their regular-season performance and use the minimum number of officials necessary in the postseason.

Stern said Monday he didn't think there was merit to the idea.

"It's the kind of conversation I understand and it is an issue, but that's a conversation I would have privately with my owners," Stern said.

"Whatever the individual merits of a particular incident, I can't have 30 owners out there saying whatever they feel like saying. And I can't have 30 owners running on the court to berate the officials."

Stern also said the league would likely ban players next season from wearing tights underneath the shorts. Some players, including Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade, have worn leggings that extend all the way down to the ankles.

Stern squeezed in a parting shot at the tights before he likely outlaws the growing fashion trend.

"I think it's good that they look goofy," Stern said.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press