The NBA Board of Governors (the owners, essentially) — following the lead of the league’s competition committee — made two smart moves when they met this week:
They put in place a tougher punishment for the “take” foul — a free throw plus the ball out of bounds — and locked in the successful play-in tournament permanently.
They also discussed NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s pet project — an in-season tournament. From Shams Charania of The Athletic.
The NBA Board of Governors today discussed In-Season Tournament concept of all 30 teams competing and then eight teams entering single-elimination round to determine the winner, with the Final Four at a neutral site, per sources. 2023-24 season at earliest.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 13, 2022
Talking to people around the league in Las Vegas, momentum is building toward this tournament happening. Eventually.
Silver wants this, and with the success of the play-in tournament expect the owners to approve this on a trial basis at some point. Like the WNBA’s Commissioner’s Cup, the idea is to use regular-season games as the “pool play” portion of the tournament, leading to the final eight in a one-and-done NCAA Tournament style set of games.
I’m skeptical the American sporting public will embrace it — mid-season cups and tournaments are not baked into the sports fan DNA here as they are in Europe or other parts of the world where soccer/football is king. However, I could be wrong and the owners are likely willing to at least give it a shot.
There are still practical questions to answer about the NBA tournament. That starts with how does a league discussing rest and recovery to keep players healthy and on the court — fewer back-to-backs, for example — add games to the season to make this work? If they are not adding games, is every team losing some regular season games?
Also, how much money does the league need to put into the pot to motivate the players? Even at a $1 million a player prize, how much does that motivate the game’s true elite, many of whom will soon be earning $30 million a season or more?
There are a lot of questions, but the owners are talking about it and, in a few years, expect the in-season tournament to become a reality. At least for a couple of years.