Stern says Auerbach helped come up with 2-3-2 Finals format

Updated: June 8, 2008, 10:49 PM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- Any Celtics fans complaining about the 2-3-2 NBA Finals format should keep something in mind: Red Auerbach had a role in its implementation.

David Stern revealed that Sunday night during his annual Finals press conference, recalling a conversation he had with the Celtics patriarch early in his tenure as commissioner.

"Although he's not here to defend himself and deny it, I tell you that Red said to me back in '84, 'This is too much. Play, travel, play, travel, play, travel,'" Stern said. "In subsequent years he said it was terrible that we changed it to 2-3-2, but a young commissioner was motivated by the father of us all."

Stern said the league would look into everything from penalties for flopping to the 9 p.m. EDT start times for the Finals, but had little news to offer following what he called one of the league's "best seasons in years."

He added that the league should do some research on the Finals format, but cited a statistic showing the higher-seeded team has won 75 percent of the finals series since the switch.

The lower-seeded team hosts Games 3-5 in the Finals, a change from the other playoff rounds, which use a 2-2-1-1-1 format. The switch was made in 1984, Stern's first season in charge, partly because of the difficulty in travel from Boston to Los Angeles, which met in both 1984 and '85.

Boston coach Doc Rivers said Saturday he didn't like the format because the higher-seeded team doesn't get to host Game 5, usually a crucial game in a series.

At the league's Competition Committee meetings last month, teams were told that players would be fined next season for flopping, when a defender falls down on purpose in trying to draw an offensive foul.

Stern has complained about flopping before and noted there is a rule against it in international basketball and soccer, but stopped short of declaring there will be a new one in the NBA.

"I think it's a bad thing. It's not a good thing. I'm not sure exactly how you deal with it," Stern said.

"I don't think it's the most ... it's not the best part of our game, because it's either designed to fool the official or to make the crowd think that the official did a bad thing by not giving him a call. So we're struggling with exactly how the best way to deal with it, if at all."

Stern also said the committee showed no interest in any changes to the postseason seeding process.

The league has been criticized for starting its games so late, leading to finishes too late for many children in the East. But league research has shown that its best ratings come late, something Stern acknowledged.

"We wrestle with it because if the idea is to let the largest audience see the game, including youngsters, there's no doubt that at 11:30 Eastern, that's when the largest audience is gathered in," Stern said.

"Having thought about it, it wouldn't be a terrible thing to have a Sunday night game at 7 o'clock, but our network partners tell us that your ratings will be lower, and to me that isn't just about selling air time, that means that you'll have a lower audience count, and why would you want to have a lower audience count."

With little else to discuss, Stern allowed himself time to complain again about the pregame entertainment in arenas, which he complained about earlier this postseason.

"I'm allowed, as this is my 25th Finals, I'm allowed to say that we've got to do something about flopping and we have got to do something about fireworks at games," Stern said. "The fireworks have been much more popular with the media than the flopping, but you have to say something at press conferences as you go around, and so those are my two topics for the playoff season."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press