A division title might soon mean a banner but no assurance of a playoff spot in the NBA.
Commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday the league is leaning toward not guaranteeing a postseason berth to a team that wins its division, forcing clubs to finish in the top eight of their conference if they want a shot at the title.
Silver already had said he expected a change from the current format that guarantees division winners no worse than the No. 4 seed. But after discussions with both the competition committee and board of governors, he believes the change will go further than that.
"First of all, it's never happened before that a division winner did not finish within the top eight, and our basketball analytics folks calculate that there's less than a 5 percent chance that it would happen," he said.
"Where we are leaning right now is that we would not guarantee a spot for a division winner in part because it's so unlikely to happen, and No. 2 if it does happen it would be potentially confusing to fans. No. 3, you would be displacing a team that did have a top-eight record."
Portland got the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference last season by winning the Northwest Division, but the Trail Blazers would have been seeded sixth by win-loss record.
That sparked new calls to throw out the protection for division winners, and Silver said after the owners' annual summer meeting in Las Vegas that change was coming, though they wanted more time before voting on it.
"So while we're going to continue to discuss it a little bit more — we need to make a decision before the preseason begins — I think the greater likelihood is we will not be guaranteeing a spot to a division winner," he said Wednesday.
Silver added it was too far off to talk about whether owners would opt out of the collective bargaining agreement in 2017, after saying last week that a significant number of teams were still losing money.
League Pass changes
After two decades in which fans could buy only a package involving all games through NBA League Pass, the league announced it will begin offering individual games for $6.99 or all games for one team for $119.99.
The price for the full, traditional package of out-of-market games will be $199.99. The service is available both for TV and broadband.
The move carries with it the risk that some fans who might otherwise have bought the full package will opt for one of the more limited options. But Silver said the league had no choice but to adapt with the times.
"It's the first time we're selling individual games and in fact it may cannibalize the overall package, but ultimately the consumers dictate," he said, speaking before he appeared on a panel at the Prudential Center as part of Beyond Sport United, a conference to promote and discuss social consciousness in sports.
"Our fans are going to tell us what the appropriate price is, and even if it does cannibalize to a certain degree, the most important thing is to satisfy the fans of the game."
Spurs sign Fredette
San Antonio signed guard Jimmer Fredette. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. The former BYU player spent last season with the New Orleans Pelicans, averaging 3.6 points, 1.4 assists and 10.2 minutes. He has career averages of 6.1 points and 1.4 assists in 229 games in four seasons with Sacramento, Chicago and New Orleans.