Gregg Popovich wants NBA to change playoff seeding procedure

ByArash Markazi ESPN logo
Sunday, May 3, 2015

LOS ANGELES -- San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said the NBA needs to change the way it seeds playoff teams after this season and do away with guaranteeing division winners a top-four seed.

"That should be changed immediately," Popovich said Saturday, before his team lost to the Clippers in Game 7 of the opening round. "That doesn't make any sense."

Because division winners are guaranteed a top-four seed, the Portland Trail Blazers were the 4-seed in the West despite holding the sixth-best record in the conference. That rule forced the Clippers and Spurs to face each other in the first round despite both teams being in position to claim the second seed on the final night of the season.

"It seems odd that a team that won 55 games and a team that won 56 games end up playing in the first round," Popovich said. "That's a tough, tough West. Every year we beat ourselves up in the West to get over to the East for the Finals. This is a ridiculously tough first round as everybody knows. But it has been competitive, and I think the fans enjoy it. I don't know how [Clippers coach] Doc [Rivers] and I enjoy it."

Popovich's comments echoed those made by Rivers at the end of the season when it looked like the Clippers would have to play the Spurs despite winning 14 of their last 15 games and being tied for the second-best record in the West.

"That's a flaw," Rivers said. "I think the divisions are important. They're nice to have. They're nice to be celebrated, for some and some not, but I don't know if they should be celebrated as far as in the standings. I think it's something that the league will absolutely look at and try to fix. You shouldn't be rewarded if your record [isn't as good as others]."

Popovich would be open to doing away with conferences and divisions but is fine leaving those discussions up to the league, which has dismissed the possibility.

"Everybody has talked about that but there are people a whole lot smarter than you or I that have talked about it and not changed it so there must be some good reasons," Popovich said. "Whether it's economic or travel or both or something we haven't thought of, I trust that the NBA has sat down and larger minds more incisive people have tried to figure it out. If they think it's appropriate they'll change it."

Popovich, however, doesn't think the disparity between the East and West will change anytime soon. At least not next season.

"A team like Oklahoma City, who, if healthy, is a championship contender without any doubt, is going to add a lottery pick," Popovich said. "The West is going to get tougher next year because they're going to be a monster. It's not going to stop any time soon. It's going to continue to be very difficult in the West."

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