Time to shuffle the playoff deck, Mr. Stern   

Updated: March 5, 2008, 1:18 PM ET

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If you turned the NBA playoffs into a true showcase of the league's best teams, and if you based it on today's standings, you'd put together a 16-team tournament with 10 teams from the West and six from the East.

And it would be more fun than the tournament we're going to get.

Radical realignment in the NBA -- or radical unalignment -- is not going to happen anytime soon, but it seems like an idea worth pursuing. The league is on such an upswing, and the product is so far superior to what it was 10 years ago, that it makes sense to tweak the playoffs to have the greatest impact and attract the most viewers.

No, the world can't be perfect. And yes, there will always be a team or teams that get jobbed.

But there's no reason Portland's collection of young talent, assuming it keeps itself above .500, should be sitting home during the playoffs so bland teams such as Philadelphia, New Jersey or even Atlanta can soil the other side of the bracket.

The idea of the Blazers' core -- Brandon Roy, Travis Outlaw and LaMarcus Aldridge -- getting the experience of playoff basketball the year before Greg Oden steps onto the court would serve as a pretty cool initiation.

And there's even less reason Denver, with the spectacle of Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson, should be home watching despite winning nearly 60 percent of its games. If the Nuggets don't make the playoffs, it's going to be seen as one of the most significant failures in recent NBA history, but it's mostly a failure of geography.

Not many teams would line up to play the Nuggets in a series, facing the prospect of Anthony's all-around game -- he's probably the best post-up scorer in the league -- and Iverson's unbreakable will. And the way it stands now, nobody will.

That's a shame.

This Week's List

When your personality has already caused the public to underrate your boxing accomplishments, what do you do? Well, if you're Floyd Mayweather Jr., you give them more ammunition by joining up with professional wrestling.

I think "You don't want to know" is probably the safe answer: Say you put four bracketologists and four draftniks in a room, locked the door and came back two days later, who would come out alive?

Maybe because avoiding injury is never the sole purpose of the baseball games: Why are meaningless baseball games in March so charming while meaningless football games in August are so tedious?

Immutable law of college basketball: The smaller the conference, the better the conference tournament.

One more immutable law: The more a studio force-feeds a movie down our throats before release, the worse the movie.

And the law's footnote: The more likely the movie is to include Will Ferrell.

Just for the heck of it: Fennis Dembo.

Unsolicited advice for Lou Piniella: Make Carlos Marmol the closer.

One reason to think your club might be in for a long year: When the big spring training competition is the backup 1B/backup DH battle between Mike Sweeney and Dan Johnson.

Why everybody just needs to leave it to the professionals: A headline in the sports section of a non-sports Web site read "Broncos Star Arrested," and upon further investigation it revealed not Jay Cutler or D.J. Williams but defensive lineman Marcus Thomas, who started five games last year.

Sure, but the question I want answered is whether Bruce Bochy had a tough time removing his starter when he had a no-hitter going: The Giants' Noah Lowry had the most amazing pitching line of spring training -- nine walks in one-plus inning against the Rangers on Monday.

If nothing else, it'll be humorous: So now we know why George Steinbrenner kept young Hank back home to keep an eye on the horses all these years.

Well, then -- so far so good: Larry Hughes of the Cavs told Lisa Salters of ABC and Brian Windhorst of the Akron Beacon-Journal that " ... some people take this the wrong way, but winning a championship is not what I base everything on."

Apparently they're not fitness tapes: Michigan women's coach Kevin Borseth, who got a little nutty after losing to Wisconsin, described the task ahead by saying, "Watch 48 more hours of tape, gain another 10 pounds. That's how you get ready for Sunday."

And finally, thanks, Dad: Kansas 109, Texas Tech 51.

Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Sound off to Tim here.



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