Adam Silver and the NBA league office had pushed for the play-in tournament over the side-eye looks of some teams and the players’ union — both of whom eventually signed on. It turned out to be a huge success for the league, both in terms of television ratings and in bringing meaning to games in the final weeks of the season (turning the conversation away from tanking).
Now Silver and the NBA want to build on that success and restart talks about a mid-season tournament, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Commissioner Adam Silver, a proponent of the idea, has gained optimism that the success of the play-in tournament could drive momentum to reengage teams on another tournament idea that had been discussed before the pandemic, but never reached a vote of the board of governors, sources said…
The NBA would need an agreement with the National Basketball Players Association and a two-thirds majority of its 30 teams to incorporate an in-season tournament plan. The league could start exploring the idea again with teams and the NBPA as soon as this year, sources said. It is too late for the league to consider the idea for the 2021-22 season.
The NBA mid-season tournament idea was lifted from European soccer competitions such as the FA Cup. The idea was to use regular-season games between Thanksgiving and Christmas — a time when American sports fans are more focused on NFL and college football — as the first rounds, with it eventually leading to an eight-team, single-elimination tournament during the season. The goal is to bring meaning to an often overlooked stretch of the season.
Tied to this tournament was the idea of shortening the NBA season to 78 games (four fewer than a standard 82).
The hesitancy from teams and players starts with: Would American sports fans care? These kinds of mid-season tournaments are baked into the DNA of European soccer fans, but not American fans. Think of it this way: Would the Lakers or Celtics hang a “Mid-Season Tournament Champions” banner? Would even a smaller market team without a rafter full of banners put one up?
The other concern is always revenue — big market clubs and ones with new arenas that generate a lot of revenue from game-day gate receipts don’t love the idea of even a couple fewer home games.
This remains a very tough sell. But Silver will make the “I told you the play-in tournament would work, now trust me on this” argument. It just may not go very far.