NEW YORK -- Beginning with the 2014 NBA Finals, the higher-seeded team will host Games 1, 2, 5 and 7. The lower seed gets Games 3, 4 and 6, following the same format the NBA uses in all other rounds.
The change comes about as NBA owners unanimously voted Wednesday to scrap a format for the championship round that featured three home consecutive games for the lower-seeded team in the middle of the series.
Referred to as the 2-3-2 scenario, the higher seed opened with two home games, then played three straight on the road, before closing with two more home games. It was conducive to travel, especially when teams had to span several time zones, and was a favorite of outgoing commissioner David Stern.
In the new format, though there will be more travel inconveniences, the higher seed will host the first two games, before hitting the road for two games. At that point -- Game 5 -- the teams will alternate home games, ending with a potential Game 7 on the higher-seeded team's floor. This format, used in the other playoff rounds, is known as the 2-2-1-1-1 (see full story).
Cavs: Options picked up on Irving, 3 others
CLEVELAND -- The Cavaliers picked up the fourth-year contract options on All-Star guard Kyrie Irving and forward Tristan Thompson.
The team also exercised the third-year options on guard Dion Waiters and forward Tyler Zeller on Wednesday. All of the moves were expected and came one week before Cleveland opens the 2013-14 season at home against Brooklyn.
The options on Irving and Thompson are for the 2014-15 season. The Cavs can offer both players contract extensions starting next summer. Irving will make about $7.5 million next season and Thompson about $5.4 million.
Irving made the All-Star team in his second season, when he averaged 22.5 points and 5.9 assists in 59 games. The Cavs are counting on him to become more of a leader this season and lead the club back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Kings: Assistant Brendan Malone resigns
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento Kings assistant coach Brendan Malone has resigned.
The team said it accepted Malone's resignation Wednesday. It did not disclose why Malone resigned.
Malone is the father of new Kings coach Michael Malone. He has 27 years of NBA experience, including a stint as an assistant to Chuck Daly on two championship teams in Detroit. Malone also was the first head coach of the Toronto Raptors.
Michael Malone said in a statement that he was thankful to have his father on staff to help him transition into his new role. He says his father "will always be an invaluable source of counsel on all matters basketball and otherwise."
Chris Jent will assume Brendan Malone's responsibilities as the lead assistant.
Rockets: Howard is happy again
HOUSTON -- Dwight Howard says he is happy again.
The star center has put his lone disappointing and drama-filled season in Los Angeles behind him. He says he is ecstatic about joining the Houston Rockets and helping the young team compete for a championship.
Howard says: "I'm in a better place mentally, physically and spiritually now."
His delight is evident in watching him interact with his new teammates. He wears a broad smile fits of laughter are common as he chats with his fellow Rockets.
Howard spurned the Lakers to sign an $88 million deal with Houston, joining James Harden and a team that made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2009 (see full story).