"Reformatting the playoffs is something we'll continue to look at," Silver told reporters in China. "I think though it would require revisiting the regular-season schedule as well. As I've said before, we don't play a balanced schedule now, as I'm sure you know.
"And for those that don't, that means that teams in the East play each other more than they play teams in the West. And our feeling is, if we were going to seed 1-16, we would need to play a balanced schedule to make it fair for everyone if we were going to seed 1-16 in the playoffs. It may be that as we continue to experiment with the number of days over which we can schedule 82 games that it will create more of an opportunity for a balanced schedule."
The NBA's current schedule calls for teams from opposing conferences to play just twice during the regular season. Teams then play four games against their divisional opponents and then either four or three contests against non-divisional opponents within the same conference.
Mathematically, it is hard to work out a balanced 82-game schedule. A team could theoretically play 24 teams three times and five teams twice, but that could lead to teams getting a better seed due to some luck-of-the-draw scheduling. The league would have to extend the regular season to 87 games for a fully balanced slate.
This is one of the many reasons no major American sports league has a "balanced" schedule and the seemingly arcane conference rules—put into place when travel was far more difficult—have been maintained.
Silver also said he was concerned about adding more travel for players in the event it eliminated conferences for the playoffs:
"In adding the extra week to the regular season this year, we will be able to eliminate completely four games in five nights. I think it's the first time in the history of the league we were able to do that. Plus we have back to backs at an all-time low. If we took the existing format, the existing schedule and then we seeded playoffs 1-16, we'd be adding additional travel; you would have teams criss-crossing the country in the first round."