The absurdity of the Western Conference playoff cat-and-mouse game has reached epic proportions here in Los Angeles and, I imagine, in Memphis, too.

Here, the shtick goes something like this:  Win just enough to secure home-court against Denver in a 3-6 matchup...but not enough to overtake Memphis and leave ourselves with a 4-5 matchup against Dallas where we'd play games one and two in Chez Cubano. 

We've all sounded the usual refrains about the silliness of a system that rewards mediocrity down the stretch.  Sure, it's one thing for lottery teams to be tanking games in service of additional ping-pong balls, but quite another for playoff-bound teams to be phoning it end in the hopes of their failure actually earning them home-court advantage. 

What few people have offered up is a remedy - a foolproof playoff system that addresses the failures of the current structure.  To review, those failures are:

  • Rewarding the first three seeds to the three divisional champs, but not really rewarding them because home-court isn't guaranteed with that seed.  As a rule, I'm against "divisions" in leagues where "division" doesn't really mean anything because teams play balanced schedules by and large.  But if you're going to crown a champ and give them the seeding, you might as well give them the home-court, too...or else you end up with a Memphis-Clips situation. 
  • About a third of the time 4s are actually 2s.  Dallas drawing San Antinio would be an example of this glitch.  This is what happens when you have a prime number of divisions.  Four divisions?  Good.  Two divisions?  Good.  Three divisions?  Not so good. 

  • The Round One schedule.  Just take a look at the ferkakte Denver-San Antonio series last year.   Sunday-Wednesday-Saturday for games one, two and three?  No wonder San Antonio is always referred to as a veteran team.  By the time they get through a single series, their roster has collectively aged 70 years.

My friend, Andrew Davidson, presented a proposal that had me suspicious at first: A World Cup "pool structure."  My skepticism emanated from two places.  First, I'm not really a soccer fan; I'm not a hater by any means...just not where I choose to do my shopping.  Second, I like brackets.  They're linear.  And pretty. 

Nevertheless, Andrew emailed me a spreadsheet from Chapel Hill.  And you know what? 

His Round One playoff schedule is a helluva lot more fun than watching New Jersey-Milwaukee for the next two and half weeks.   Each team plays 6 games. The top seeds in each pool play 4 of those 6 games at home; the bottom seeds in the respective pools play only 2 games at home and 4 on the road; the "middle" seeds play 3 at home and 3 on the road. 

I made like an NBA office slave, took into account travel and rest.  Here's what I came up with:



Pool A                                                                                                
(1) San Antonio                                             
(3) Phoenix                                                     
(6) Denver                                                      
(8) Sacramento           

Pool B
(2) Dallas
(4) Memphis
(5) LA Clippers
(7) LA Lakers                        

Pool C                                                            
(1) Detroit                                                      
(3) New Jersey                                               
(6) Indiana                                                     
(8) Chicago                

Pool D
(2) Miami
(4) Cleveland
(5) Washington
(7) Milwaukee


Saturday, April 22
Sacramento at San Antonio
LA Lakers at Dallas
LA Clippers at Memphis
Denver at Phoenix

Sunday, April 23
Chicago at Detroit
Milwaukee at Miami
Washington at Cleveland
Indiana at New Jersey

Monday, April 24
Sacramento at San Antonio
LA Lakers at Dallas

Tuesday, April 25
Chicago at Detroit
Milwaukee at Miami
Phoenix at Denver
Memphis at LA Clippers

Wednesday, April 26
New Jersey at Indiana
Cleveland at Washington

Thursday, April 27
Memphis at Los Angeles Lakers
LA Clippers at Dallas
San Antonio at Phoenix
Denver at Sacramento

Friday, April 28
Detroit at New Jersey
Indiana at Chicago
Miami at Cleveland
Washington at Milwakee

Saturday, April 29
Dallas at Memphis
LA Lakers at LA Clippers
Sacramento at Phoenix
Denver at San Antonio

Sunday, April 30
Chicago at New Jersey
Indiana at Detroit
Milwaukee at Cleveland
Washington at Miami

Monday, May 1
Dallas at LA Clippers
LA Lakers at Memphis
Phoenix at San Antonio
Sacramento at Denver

Tuesday, May 2
New Jersey at Detroit
Chicago at Indiana
Cleveland at Miami
Milwaukee at Washington

Wednesday, May 3
LA Clippers at LA Lakers
Memphis at Dallas
Phoenix at Sacramento
San Antonio at Denver

Thursday, May 4
Detroit at Indiana
New Jersey at Chicago
Cleveland at Milwaukee
Miami at Washington

Saturday, May 6
Western Conference Semifinals Game One*
Pool B 2nd Place at Pool A 1st Place
Pool A 2nd Place at Pool B 1st Place

Sunday, May 7
Eastern Conference Semifinals Game One
Pool D 2nd Place at Pool C 1st Place
Pool C 2nd Place at Pool D 1st Place

*In the event of a second-place tie in one or both of the Western Conference pools, a one-game elimination playoff will be held on Friday, May 5 on the home court of the higher seeded team.  The affected Western Conference Semifinals would then start on Sunday, May 7.   The same holds true of the Eastern Conference pools.  The affected series would commence on Monday, May 8.