By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James has only followed an Eastern route to the NBA Finals. He doesn’t want to see that change.
While NBA Commissioner Adam Silver recently raised the possibility that a change in the playoff format — re-seeding the 16 teams regardless of conference affiliation — could be approaching, James would prefer if things stayed status quo.
“I would disagree with that,” James said Wednesday as the remodeled Cavaliers practiced for the first time after the All-Star break. “I think our league has been built the right way as far as when it comes to the postseason.”
The league has always had teams from the Eastern and Western Conferences compete separately in the postseason with the respective conference winners meeting in the Finals. At last weekend’s All-Star festivities in Los Angeles, Silver advanced the discussion about a potential change in the playoff structure, offering two options that both included teams being re-seeded regardless of conference connection.
“You also would like to have a format where your two best teams are ultimately going to meet in the Finals,” Silver said. “You could have a situation where the top two teams in the league are meeting in the conference finals or somewhere else. So we’re going to continue to look at that. It’s still my hope that we’re going to figure out ways.”
Any change would require a majority vote by league owners.
For James, who has been to seven straight Finals with Miami and Cleveland, altering the playoff format would be somewhat disrespectful.
“It just changes the landscape of the history of the game,” he said. “It’s cool to mess around with the All-Star Game, we proved you can do that, but let’s not get too crazy about the playoffs. You have Eastern Conference and you have Western Conference. You have Eastern Conference champions, you have guys from the Eastern Conference that win the big dance and sometimes you have it from the West as well.”
James loved the change in this year’s All-Star game as he and Steph Curry were voted as captains by fans and got to choose their teams. James’ team edged Curry’s in one of the more competitive events in recent years.
But as for the Finals, James doesn’t see a need for change. He noted that there has been conference imbalance before, but time usually evens the score.
“There’s been dominant conferences throughout time,” he said. “In the ’80s you had the Lakers who dominated the league at one point, then you had Boston that dominated the league. In the ’90s, you had Chicago that dominated the league. San Antonio also had its run. We had our run in the East with Miami, Golden State is having their run.”
James said he never gets caught up in the East vs. West comparisons.
“For what? You go out and play,” he said. “I’ve been a part of the Eastern Conference my whole career and we’ve been very, very competitive. There’s been years where we weren’t as good. If I can think from once I got into the league, it’s been us (Cleveland), I’ve done it three times, Detroit, Boston, Miami in ’06, that’s like seven championships out of 14 years.
“That’s half, right? So what are we talking about?”
James was slightly off as the Western Conference has won eight of the past 14 titles.