The National Basketball Association (NBA), with
teams from the United States and Canada, is the major professional
basketball league in the world. The 29 NBA teams are divided into two
conferences, the Eastern and Western, each of which has two divisions.
Each NBA team conducts a training camp in October to determine its
12-player roster. Training camp allows each team to evaluate players,
especially rookies (first-year players), to assess the team's strengths
and weaknesses, and to prepare players for the upcoming season through a
series of on-court drills and practice of offensive and defensive
strategy. After a series of exhibition games, the NBA begins its 82-game
regular season in the first week of November.
In February the NBA interrupts its season to celebrate the annual NBA
All-Star Game, featuring the game's best players as selected by the
general balloting of fans throughout the United States and Canada. After
the NBA season concludes in April, a total of 16 teams qualify for the
playoffs (8 teams from each conference). In each conference the two
division winners are guaranteed a playoff spot. The remaining playoff
spots in each conference are awarded on the basis of win-loss records to
the six next-best teams, regardless of division. The playoffs start with
the teams with better records playing the teams with worse records in a
best-of-five series, in which the winner is the first team to win three
games. In subsequent rounds best-of-seven series are played, with the
first team to earn four victories winning the round. The playoffs
continue in this elimination scheme until a conference champion is
crowned. The champions from the Eastern and Western conferences then
meet in a best-of-seven series to determine the NBA champion.
Every June the league conducts its amateur draft, in which teams obtain
the rights to the best available players in the world. Any player whose
high school class has graduated and who is at least 17 years old
qualifies for the NBA draft if that player renounces his collegiate
eligibility by mid-May. Generally, players attend at least one year of
college before turning professional, although beginning in the 1990s a
few high school players have entered the draft each year.
To determine the draft order the NBA uses a draft lottery, introduced in
1985. Those teams that failed to qualify for the playoffs the previous
season are eligible for the lottery. The lottery determines the first
three teams to select in the draft. The remaining teams, including those
that qualified for the playoffs the preceding season, draft according to
their win-loss record of the previous season, so that teams with poorer
records draft earlier than those with better records. Teams may trade
draft picks with each other, either for different picks or for players.
The NBA draft consists of only two rounds, with a total of 58 players
chosen. Those players not selected in the draft can be invited to try
out for a team and are sometimes signed as free agents.
Although many players go straight from college or overseas leagues into
the NBA, the league also supports developmental leagues that allow
players, coaches, executives, and referees to hone their skills. One
such minor league was the Continental Basketball Association (CBA),
founded in 1946 as the Eastern Professional Basketball League. The CBA
was financially unstable, however, and folded in early 2001 after NBA
executives decided to start their own minor league. The National
Basketball Development League (NBDL) is scheduled to begin its first
season in November 2001 and will consist of eight teams based in small
cities throughout the southeastern United States.
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