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The NBA could have an in-season tournament as soon as the 2023-24 season.
Adam Silver has pushed for this, and the success of the NBA’s Play-in Tournament and WNBA’s Commissioner’s Cup have given him the leverage. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the NBA has figured out the tournament’s in-season logistics and laid it out for teams.
Much like the WNBA’s Commissioner’s Cup, the goal is to blend most of this into the regular season for teams. For example, a standard mid-week Celtics vs. Knicks game in early November could be designated a tournament game and take on additional weight.
The financial incentive portion is no small detail to figure out. For a lot of NBA players, any reasonable financial boost will matter to them and get them focused, but for the players who genuinely determine the winners and losers nightly in the NBA, what can the league do to motivate them? This coming season 39 players will have salaries higher than $30 million, how does the league get those players to care about a random tournament game?
For the league, this tournament can theoretically accomplish two goals. First, it can spice up the season’s opening months, when more casual fans tend to be focused on football (or the MLB playoffs). League officials are not fond of the old trope that the NBA season really tips off on Christmas Day, they want a way to inspire fans before that.
Second, it can give fans something to root for beyond winning it all in June. Even in what is considered a wide-open championship season like the one coming up, 10 (or slightly fewer, depending on where you draw the line) teams have a legitimate title shot. That leaves two-thirds of the league out of the mix before opening night even tips off. Those teams, however, could get hot and win this early-season crown.
The big question is: Will fans care?
The reason the play-in tournament works is the games matter — there is real jeopardy for teams. Lose and go home. Teams are fighting for their playoff lives. (It’s that “every game matters” drama that makes the relatively short NFL/college football season so dramatic and must-watch.)
If teams lose and fall out of this early season tournament/cup, will their fanbases care? If a team makes it to the final eight of the cup, will the fans start to care? The final game?
It looks like we will find out, starting as soon as next season.
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Report: NBA sets framework for in-season tournament, eight-team knockout stage originally appeared on NBCSports.com