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Sunday, June 16
The Indiana Daily Student

sports

Realignment right for NBA

Now that Charlotte all but has an NBA franchise again (the league has OKed the idea, and the city council has voted in favor of an arena being built), league commissioner David Stern is proposing the idea of realignment for the 2004-05 season.\nStern wants to move to a format that would divide each conference into three divisions of five, rather than the current two divisions of seven (eight in the Central). It's a great idea, but there are some hurdles that the league will have to overcome to get there.\nI like the idea because it can bring back the unbalanced schedule that adds value to winning a division. Currently, teams play every opponent in their conference either three or four times. The only thing that separates the two divisions is the right of the division champion to play the seventh seed come playoff time. Other than that, there is no reason to even have divisions at all.\nUnder the proposed format, winning the division title would mean something again.\nWith 30 teams in the league -- 15 per conference and five per division -- a team could play the other four teams in its own division five times. They could play the other ten teams in the conference three times. They would continue to play the opposite conference two times, totaling 80 games. Since the league operates with an 82-game schedule, the additional two games could be played, as in the NFL, against the two teams in the same conference that finished in the same place the previous year.\nThe unbalanced schedule has gotten mixed reviews since installed recently in Major League Baseball, but I believe that advancing to the playoffs should mean that a team proves it was better than those with which it was in competition. Currently, that is not the way it works.\nAside from the schedule, the league would have to make several tough decisions about which teams go into which conference. Already, Minnesota and Memphis are pleading to be switched into the Eastern Conference, since they have to play so many games on the west coast. But, there is already an imbalance in the league -- 15 teams play in the east and 14 are in the west. So, in order to evenly divide the 30 teams they would have to remain in the west, and another team, would have to join them. The cities where Western Conference teams play are just too spread out to avoid excessive travelling.\nI believe this could work, since the unbalanced schedule would mean playing fewer games the West Coast. The divisions could look something like this:\nWestern Conference\nDivision 1: Dallas, Houston, Memphis, New Orleans, San Antonio\nDivision 2: Denver, Minnesota, Portland, Seattle, Utah\nDivision 3: Golden State, LA Clippers, LA Lakers, Phoenix, Sacramento\nTo help reduce the traveling, teams could play the Clippers and the Lakers on consecutive nights.\nEastern Conference\nDivision 1: Boston, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Toronto\nDivision 2: Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, Orlando, Washington\nDivision 3: Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Indiana, Milwaukee

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