Vote is unanimous to change Finals
NEW YORK -- NBA owners voted unanimously Wednesday to change the Finals format to 2-2-1-1-1 after nearly 30 years of a 2-3-2 format. The change will take place effective for the 2014 Finals in the spring.
Commissioner David Stern called it an "easy sell" to owners to help add competitive balance and align the Finals schedule with the rest of the playoffs. To ease the transition, an extra day off will be added between Games 6 and 7.
"There's been a sense among our teams that in a 2-2 series, it's not fair for a team with the better record to be away [for Game 5]," Stern said after the league's board of governors annual preseason meeting. "It's not fair for the better team in terms of record to spend as many as eight days away from home."
Stern said that one of the first conversations he had as commissioner in 1984 was with then-Boston Celtics president Red Auerbach, who complained about the demands of travel after several Finals between his team and the Los Angeles Lakers. Stern led the change to the 2-3-2 by 1985, which was also done to encourage more media coverage of the Finals.
As a bit of symbolism of the changing arc of the league during his tenure, Stern oversaw the change back to the 2-2-1-1-1 in his last owners meeting as commissioner. Stern is set to hand over the reins to deputy commissioner Adam Silver on Feb. 1, 30 years to the day he became commissioner.
"It made sense to do it now," Silver said. "Events came together over many years, and it reached a crescendo. The basketball people thought it was important, and the business people stood down and said it was no longer necessary."
After several years of tense proceedings with collective bargaining that led to a lockout and a protracted struggle for the future of the Sacramento Kings that dominated league business last year, this owners meeting was generally lighthearted and used largely as an ode to Stern.
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Tuesday night there was a dinner dedicated to him where several owners, including the San Antonio Spurs' Peter Holt and the Indiana Pacers' Herb Simon, toasted Stern. There was also a video tribute that featured messages from stars Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Stern was also presented with his own bobblehead.
"It was a warm and good evening, there were embarrassing photos from the last 36 years," Stern said. "What flowed over me that this was a great run."
There were several other pieces of league business covered at the meeting:
• The enhanced revenue-sharing system, including a more penal luxury tax, is working. Stern said he projected that 24 of 25 teams would be profitable by the end of the 2014-15 season, even with some teams choosing not to focus on profit.
"I haven't looked at the Nets' balance sheet, but my guess is they're not necessarily going to be profitable," said Stern, referring to owner Mikhail Prokhorov's decision to pay an estimated $80 million in luxury taxes alone this upcoming season.
• Stern said a new arena in Sacramento was "going swimmingly" and is on schedule to be opened in three years for the start of the 2016-17 season. Stern is planning to attend the Kings' opener next week.
The commissioner said the Minnesota Timberwolves are in final negotiations on terms of a planned overhaul of the Target Center in the near future. Recently, Silver visited Milwaukee to make the point that the Bucks need a new facility, and the owners reviewed the situation there. The Bucks have four years left on their lease at the Bradley Center.