Adam Silver is willing to experiment, willing to listen, and try new things. It’s part of what makes him the best commissioner in professional sports.
Silver also knows what we all know — the NBA season is too long. He also knows the financial risks of shrinking it, and you can be sure owners with teams valued in the billions — not to mention the players with their massive contracts — are not about to give up any of that cash.
That is where the experimenting comes in. Maybe with a mid-season, European soccer-style tournament that would cap-off All-Star weekend and replace a tired game losing viewers. The hope is this tournament could generate revenue to offset the lost games. Or, the NBA could do an end-of-season play-in tournament — teams 7-10 in each conference would play their way into the postseason — to generate a little more excitement and get more teams in the playoff chase.
Silver told Marc Stein of the New York Times — for Stein’s weekly newsletter — that both ideas are being studied “fairly intensely” by the league.
“I’m looking at things from a fan standpoint,” Silver said. “I’m looking at how to create the most exciting season and experience, especially in a rapidly changing media market where fans are in essence voting every day whether they want to watch your product.
“Another marker for me is that we’re a few seasons away from our 75th anniversary,” Silver continued, referring to a landmark that the league will commemorate in 2021-22. “I think that milestone gives us a pillar around which to think about the history of the league and experiment — maybe just for the 75th anniversary — with some potential changes.”
If the league can put in a mid-season tournament where each team plays at least three games (round-robin style) and goes on from there with single elimination — culminating with a “final four” All-Star weekend — and that lets the NBA reduce the number of regular season games down the 60 or so, then I am all for it.
There are a lot of questions to answer either way, including what are the incentives (financial or otherwise) that will get the players to go all out for these games, or for coaches not to use this as a chance to rest their stars more? There’s a lot of logistical questions, too.
But you have to like that Silver is experimenting. No matter the outcome.