Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Report: NBA teams, league discussing reduction in games, mid-season tournament in 2021-22

19 Comments

The 2021-22 NBA season will be the league’s 75th, and the association plans to promote and celebrate that.

It also may use that window as a chance to make dramatic changes to the schedule.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has hinted before that maybe the 75th anniversary year is a good time to introduce change, but now the league is taking more concrete steps to move that direction. The league office conducted a brainstorming session with representatives from some teams about potential changes, reports Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.

On a June 17 conference call, a committee that consists of approximately a dozen top team executives from both basketball and business operations discussed with the league office ideas for alternatives to the traditional NBA schedule for the 2021-22 season. In what sources characterize as a wide-ranging brainstorming session with accompanying documents, participants contemplated how the NBA could introduce the aforementioned tournaments, as well as an abbreviated slate of regular-season games, to accommodate the additional events.

According to those with knowledge of the conversation, which sources regard as very exploratory, the proposed reforms would be adopted initially as a pilot program. The NBA would have the chance to observe the trial run and evaluate the long-term viability of such a schedule design.

There has been a push to reduce the number of regular season games for a while, and that came to the forefront again after these playoffs when Kawhi Leonard played in 60 regular season games to be rested and ready for the playoffs. Leonard led the Toronto Raptors to their first title.

However, pulling off major schedule changes in two years is a daunting task.

The biggest challenge in reducing the number of games is financial — teams count on the 41 nights of gate revenue each season, and have sold their local broadcast rights on the premise that there would be 82 games to show. Sponsors — from the on-jersey ads through in-arena sponsors — also expect exposure over a full season.

To counter that, there is the mid-season tournament idea, where teams would play for a second, separate title, as is seen in European soccer. The idea is that revenue raised for that tournament — broadcast rights sold separately is part of it — would offset the gate revenue lost from games.

Also, there is the idea of a “play-in” tournament for the playoffs. The idea would be that the top six seeds in a conference would be set, but the 7-10 seeds would be put in a tournament of some kind with the winners advancing to the playoffs and to face the top seeds.

Also, some in the league believe that if there are fewer games — a scarcity of the product — more money can be charged to see it. The NFL is used as an example here, with just 16 regular season games each event is essential and can’t be missed. The NBA regular season does not feel like that in the least.

Of course, if you can charge more per game because there are fewer games, it would be another step in pricing out the casual basketball fan from going to games, which is already a problem.

On top of all that, any plan would need to be presented to and negotiated with the NBA’s players’ union.

“It would need to be negotiated with the Players Association,” Silver said at his Finals press conference, talking about a mid-season tournament. “I’ve had very general discussions with Michele Roberts about the notion that these are the kinds of things we’re looking at. I think she, of course, is supportive of looking at any ideas we have to build the business over time. But there’s nothing concrete that we have brought to the Players Association and said, you know, ‘Is this something you’ll support?'”

Silver is a commissioner willing to explore change, he does not fear it. He wants the league to embrace it. But how much change can be done to the schedule, and how fast, may be a real test of that philosophy.

Chris Paul says players don’t really talk about money in locker room

Associated Press
3 Comments

Locker room banter flies all over the conversational map: Clubs/restaurants to first cars to rappers to Fortnite to why Player X never has any lotion and always has to borrow someone else’s.

What doesn’t come up? Money.

That according to Chris Paul, who should know after 14 years in the league and now serving as the players’ union president. He was talking about his campaign to help players become more financially aware and said this to Clevis Murray of The Athletic.

“I think the reason why I’m so passionate about this is because I’m finishing up my 14th year in the NBA, and I’ve been around long enough to realize that guys in our league, we talk about everything in the locker room except for finance, except for money,” he said. “Nobody talks about money, because it’s one of those uncomfortable things.”

It’s a strange dynamic in an NBA locker room because everybody knows what everybody else makes, it’s very public, and that provides a certain measuring stick of worth.

Yet how does one player tell another “man, your entourage is too big, you’re blowing your money.” Players finally making money understandably want to take care of family and close friends, but other people come into their life and things can spiral fast. CP3 says he gets it, and he is working with Joe Smith — who made $60 million in NBA earnings and lost all of it — to help prepare rookies.

The stories of NBA players blowing through their money absolutely happen, but they also are not the majority, and the numbers are shrinking. More and more players are learning to be smarter with their money and set themselves up on some level for life after basketball. Not all, but guys who stick in the league a few years tend to learn. If Paul and the union can come up with ways to reach players at an earlier age and prepare them for what is to come, all the better.

Bobby Portis says watch out for underrated Knicks, they could make playoffs

Patrick Smith/Getty Images
1 Comment

You don’t want a player on your team that heads into the season thinking, “we suck, I just hope we can get to 20 wins and not be embarrassed every night.” Even if that might be the reality for that roster.

Enter Bobby Portis of the New York Knicks. The Wizards let him walk to save money and he has ended up on a Knicks team with a lot of guys who see themselves as underrated: Elfrid Payton, Marcus Morris, and Julius Randle. Plus New York has young players with a lot to prove — especially after Summer League — in Kevin Knox, R.J. Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson.

Portis likes this underdog team, he told Alex Kennedy of Hoopshype.

I love being underrated, man. I’m an underdog. I say that every day. We’re the team that’s being counted out right now. People are looking past us. They’re talking about stars going to new teams and this and that, and that’s okay. Everybody on this team has a huge chip on their shoulder. We’re the guys who are always picked second. I think that’s going to make us close. Our practices are going to be top-notch; we’re all going to be competing and that’s going to make us better. We have a lot of dogs on this team, which will help us out as well. Collectively, we all have a chip on our shoulder – a log on our shoulder – so we’re going to go out there and play with an edge. I think that’s great for us.

So… playoffs?

Yeah, for sure, for sure. The naysayers, the haters, the people who are doubting us will say that we’re crazy as hell for saying that. But we have a bunch of guys who are coming in each and every day with that log on their shoulder and that’s going to push us to become a great team. We have a lot of pieces who can play. I think we’re loaded at every position; there are two-to-three players who could start at every position. When you have that much talent, that rises the competitiveness and improves the team as a whole.

That is exactly the attitude you want to see heading into the season.

The Knicks are going to struggle this year, talent wins out in the NBA and the Knicks don’t have enough of it. However, if the goal is to build a culture of gritty players who go play all out and are tough to play against — the cultures the Nets and Clippers developed that drew stars to them — the Knicks are on a decent road. New York didn’t pull a classic Knicks this year and overspend on a couple of second-tier stars when they struck out on the big guns, they went out and got decent players on short contracts. Stay flexible, build a culture.

We’ll see if Portis will be part of that going forward, but he has the right attitude.

Report: Lakers claim Kostas Antetokounmpo off waivers

Michael Reaves/Getty Images
7 Comments

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a 24-year-old MVP playing in Milwaukee and heading toward a super-max decision that could have him hit 2021 unrestricted free agency.

Big-market teams are licking their chops.

That probably has something to do with the Lakers adding his brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Kostas Antetokounmpo was the last pick in last year’s draft. He spent the season on a two-way contract with the Mavericks, who just waived him. He’ll remain on a two-way deal with the Lakers. The 21-year-old was alright in the NBA’s minor league, but he’s not a tantalizing prospect.

Except for his connection to Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Giannis Antetokounmpo said he could never see himself playing for Los Angeles. But maybe he’d change his mind if someone close to him has a positive experience there. That must be the Lakers’ hope, at least.

It’s worth a shot, and the Lakers aren’t the only team trying this angle. The Bucks also signed Thanasis Antetokounmpo this summer.

Harden on fit with Westbrook: ‘When you have talent like that, it works itself out’

Getty Images
1 Comment

It was the question everybody asked about 30 seconds after they heard Russell Westbrook had been traded to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul (after the initial shock of the deal wore off):

Do Westbrook and Harden, two of the most ball-dominant, isolation heavy players in the NBA, actually fit together?

Harden says yes. Of course, what else is he going to say, but he was earnest about it in comments to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle at the Adidas and James Harden ProCamp event last Friday.

“When you have talent like that, it works itself out. You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. You figure things out. Throughout the course of the season, you figure things out. That’s just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.”…

“It works,” Harden said. “It’s that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. And with the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in and things are going to go.”

That is essentially is what Mike D’Antoni said, and what Rockets GM Daryl Morey is betting on.

Will Westbrook, and to a lesser degree Harden, be willing to make sacrifices and adjust their games? It is the question that will define the Rockets’ season.

My prediction: The duo works it out on offense and becomes one of the hardest teams to stop in the NBA. They will work it out. However, having to play Harden and Westbrook together on defense for extended stretches will cost Houston in the playoffs earlier than they planned.