By Craig Edwards
Okay, many sports writers back east are up in arms, calling the NBA's 2007 Draft Lottery, with the Blazers and Sonics getting the top two picks, a disaster. Why? They claim having Greg Oden and Kevin Durant playing on the west coast, and in the pacific time zone, is bad for the NBA, because east coast fans won't be able to see them (for the time zone illiterates out there, games that start at 7:00 or 7:30 at night in Portland, start at 10:00 or 10:30 back east). I say that's rubbish. In the era of ESPN, DVR's, and the internet, fans can see any games they want. And the NBA can market anyone if league leaders set their minds to it.
However, one argument does have some merit. Many express a concern over the league's competitive balance. Durant and Oden coming out west makes the Blazers and the Sonics immediate players in the playoff chase. But, it's a case of the rich getting richer, with more good teams in the Western Conference, and the East continuing to suffer (though they keep doing it to themselves. Isiah Thomas and Danny Ainge, I'm looking in your direction!!).
So how do we fix it? How about some more realignment? Rather than east and west conferences, let's try north and south. In 2004, the NBA shifted to 6 divisions of 5 teams each. All it would take is moving a couple of those divisions around.
NBA Northern Conference
NBA Southern Conference
Of course, the major drawback to this is the extra travel it would require. Teams would have to make a couple more of trips to the other coast each year. But it would even out the competitive balance, especially with all the young teams in the north getting ready to bust out (Chicago, Cleveland, Portland, Seattle, Toronto). Plus, it would also help solve the other problem. More trips for Durant and Oden to the east coast would keep them in front of the east coast fans. Think of all the new rivalries this would create as well. Minnesota, which is closer to Chicago and Milwaukee then Seattle and Portland, would actually get to play their geographical rivals more than twice.
How does this work for you?