BOSTON Any Celtics fans complaining about the 2-3-2 NBA finals format should keep something in mind: Red Auerbach had a role in its implementation.
David Stern revealed that Sunday night during his annual finals press conference, recalling a conversation he had with the Celtics patriarch early in his tenure as commissioner.
"Although he's not here to defend himself and deny it, I tell you that Red said to me back in '84, 'This is too much. Play, travel, play, travel, play, travel,"' Stern said. "In subsequent years he said it was terrible that we changed it to 2-3-2, but a young commissioner was motivated by the father of us all."
Stern said the league would look into everything from penalties for flopping to the 9 p.m. EDT start times for the finals, but had little news to offer following what he called one of the league's "best seasons in years."
He added that the league should do some research on the finals format, but cited a statistic showing the higher-seeded team has won 75 percent of the finals series since the switch.
Concerning the late tipoffs, Stern said, "We wrestle with it because if the idea is to let the largest audience see the game including youngsters there's no doubt that at 11:30 Eastern, that's when the largest audience is gathered," he said before Game 2.
Stern said he reconsidered the issue after being "excoriated" on a Boston radio show.
"It wouldn't be a terrible thing to have a Sunday night game at 7 o'clock, but our network partners tell us that your ratings will be lower ... and why would you want to have a lower audience count? So that's the dilemma we face."
The lower-seeded team hosts Games 3-5 in the finals, a change from the other playoff rounds, which use a 2-2-1-1-1 format. The switch was made in the mid-1980s, partly because of the difficulty in travel from Boston to Los Angeles, which met in both 1984 and '85.
Boston coach Doc Rivers said Saturday he didn't like the format because the higher-seeded team doesn't get to host Game 5, usually a crucial game in a series.
After the league's Competition Committee meetings last month, ESPN.com reported that the league planned to enforce unspecified penalties for flopping, when a defender falls down on purpose in trying to draw an offensive foul.
Stern has complained about flopping before and noted there is a rule against it in international basketball and soccer, but stopped short of declaring there will be a new one in the NBA.
"I think it's a bad thing. It's not a good thing. I'm not sure exactly how you deal with it," Stern said.
"I don't think it's the most ... it's not the best part of our game, because it's either designed to fool the official or to make the crowd think that the official did a bad thing by not giving him a call. So we're struggling with exactly how the best way to deal with it, if at all."