There has been something bothering me for a couple of seasons at this point, and it could have something to do with my desire to see things balanced. Now, through a few important facts pointed out to me by none other than the Champ, the Conferences are even, but not in our hearts. There is a giant hole missing in the Northwest corner of the NBA map, and that is the former home of the Seattle Supersonics. How this can happen easily is to move Memphis, but since this post was already posted, I will just strategically edit this to make my point fit.
The Charlotte Hornets were a part of the Eastern Conference, and with the move down to Louisiana they also switched conferences. Now, the switching of conferences by New Orleans doesn’t perturb me, I guess I have just accepted New Orleans as a “western” kind of city. I’m not sure what the exact qualifications are for a western city, except the obvious time zone differentiation. Some cities just feel like a western conference type of city. Maybe its ignorance or a lack of attention to the subtleties and nuances that officially distinguish western and eastern conference teams.
Regardless, New Orleans is officially a Western Conference city in just about any way possible. Now, this is where I should mention the purpose of this text, which is to find the best possible solution to the imbalanced quandary. The next possible team would be the one that made the most recent move: the Oklahoma City Thunder. Now, while I disagree with the move away from Seattle, that is the past and nothing can be done about it.
Oklahoma City is another one that falls into the category of western conference city. Plus, even if Commissioner Stern decided to change the Conference of one particular team, the Thunder isn’t the ideal team. Yes, they are a young team with a solid nucleus that is on the rise. And yes, they have a budding superstar who is seemingly destined to earn multiple scoring titles in the immediate future.
Next? Lets say the Minnesota Timberwolves. They are a team who are in the wrath of rebuilding, essentially starting completely from scratch. They have pieces right now, lacking the atmosphere and roster talent that comprises a team. This offseason has been nothing short of tumultuous for Minnesota. To begin, they fired former Celtic great Kevin McHale from his head coach position. Then, GM David Kahn was hired and expected to turn the team into a group of winners. Without hiring a coach, the Timberwolves entered the draft with picks 5 and 6 in the first round.
What the Wolves needed was a lot, what they got was two players who play the same position. Of course, that is a reference to the selections of Spanish stud Ricky Rubio and the ultra quick Johnny Flynn. Generally regarded at stupid, the picks were justified by Kahn using the logic that Rubio isn’t ensured to come to the NBA right away, so Flynn was insurance. Okay, whatever, the issue has been discussed by everyone who has ever had an intelligent thought about basketball so it is not even worth reexamining, although if Rubio stays in Spain, it could turn out to be beneficial in some pathetic way. Then, Minnesota announced the hiring of Kurt Rambis as their new head coach.
The bottom line is that Minnesota is nowhere near the level that they need to be if they want to contend, or be competitive. In addition, their proximity to some Eastern Conference towns doesn’t equate to them being the choice for a switch over to the East. Minnesota is most known for being Kevin Garnett’s albatross for so many years. Garnett was Minnesota for more than a decade with some role players and accessories coming and going every couple of seasons. However, he did carry them to the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, seemingly many seasons ago. With all of that illustrious history, Minnesota cannot be the team to make the switch.
That leaves one last legitimate contender of being added to the Eastern Conference, one who fits the bill and adds something more significant than balance in the league. That team, of course, is the Memphis Grizzlies. For various reasons, the move would make sense, at least to me. One such reason is the prestige of the franchise, or lack thereof. Memphis, formerly of Vancouver, was hardly a significant player in the Western Conference. Even when Memphis was at its height, with Pau Gasol leading the charge, nobody thought they were going to win a championship.
They would be leaving very little behind in terms of memories or distinctions if they were to ever switch conferences. Perhaps, like a disgruntled player, the new environment would breath new life into the franchise that has inhabited the draft lottery for a majority of its existence. Bringing with them more than just an intimidating mascot, the Grizzlies have a roster brimming with young scorers and potentially great youthful talent. They don’t have any budding superstars (stars maybe, not elite, game shifting players), which the East doesn’t need with the likes of LeBron, Wade, and Howard all roaming the conference.
The most obvious reason that Memphis would be a logical pick to be the newest edition to the East is their location. Residing in Tennessee, Memphis is already on the way to the rest of the Eastern Conference cities when west teams are on those annual lengthy road trips. They are no further west than Chicago is, so the classification of them as a Western team seems slightly incongruous. They are sandwiched nicely between the Atlanta Hawks and the Midwestern based teams (Chicago, Indiana, Detroit, etc.).
Many have delineated the difference between the two conferences, the consensus being that the Western Conference is the tougher top to bottom of the two. In the West, Memphis is a seedling unable to get any sunlight through the giant sycamores known as the top eight teams in the West. Memphis struggles to contend, but a change to the East could change all of that. Typically in the East, the sixth through eighth seed hover slightly beneath .500. In that weakened state of the east, Memphis becomes a contender and a quality playoff team that could scare opponents with their ability to score in downpours.
The logistics of such a dramatic change in the NBA makes its likelihood near impossible. The conservative force known as David Stern likes the status quo, unless it is “tarnishing” the brand or the image of the Association. I’m not aware if this is a practical move, or if it means anything if Memphis moves over to the East. The playing field would be evened, the East would gain an improving team and Memphis could escape the harsh environment of the west. That is not to say that Memphis won’t eventually mature into a contending team, but that, at best, is still a couple of seasons away. So, in the name of all things equal, I would prefer to have the conferences balanced and move Memphis into the Eastern Conference.
But that leaves more teams in the East than in the West. To counterbalance this effect, there needs to be a move by one of the teams in the Eastern Conference. The logical team would be the newest expansion: the Charlotte Bobcats. Everything seems to work out for not only the NBA, but to the owners of the Bobcats. They are currently looking for someone to take the heavy financial burden off of their hands, and the NBA is looking for some way to put a franchise back in Seattle. Charlotte has been nothing spectacular this far into their existence, so a move wouldn’t be crippling. Besides, North Carolina will always be a college basketball state, having professional basketball seems like an unnecassary luxury at this point. Perhaps with proper support from a fan base, Charlotte will overturn their losing ways and learn to compete with the big dogs in the Western Conference.
Mea Culpa: I originally stated that there were 14 teams in the East and 16 in the West. I neglected basic mathematics and I would like to apologize to any of those who I have misled. Instead, here is what I would argue. Memphis should still move to the Eastern Conference and Charlotte should instead be moved to Seattle to take the place of the departed Thunder. There, everything makes sense now.