If the NBA’s goal with its in-season tournament is to simply further pad its upcoming national television rights deals, that’s fine. A few more nationally televised contests will always increase the package, and the players on the floor for these games will compete. However, stars won’t change their rest patterns to be available for these potential seven games. No trophy or $500,000 bonus will change that. If the league wants a true second tournament, the stakes have to be raised.
That check will help most players on the roster, but it doesn’t give the coaches and stars an incentive to prioritize these games over any others. To win the NBA Cup is actually a disadvantage because it adds an 83rd game to the schedule of the teams in the championship game.
The regular season certainly needs some spice added to it. I enjoy watching the NBA every night, but also understand that 82 games a year are a bit much for the modern attention span. Also, the basketball powers that be don’t decide what the media and players value. It’s like the FIBA tournament. Calling it a World Cup does not make it so, or more prestigious than Olympic basketball. This in-season tournament will never be the NBA Finals, but what it could offer the champion is a huge jolt up the standings.
Group play is four games and eight teams advance, the winners of the six groups and two wildcards. What would make that more intriguing is if the teams that advance from the group stage were automatically 4-0 for the stretch regardless of their actual record, and those that failed to advance are tagged with an 0-4 record.
Then apply the same system to the knockout rounds. Since there are eight teams and an extra game, the champion would go 2-0 for that stretch and the other seven qualifiers would be 0-2. Since that 83rd game doesn’t count towards the records of the participants in it, having a 6-0 record on the line provides some real incentive to win the tournament.
That 0-4 group stage may appear harsh for the 22 teams that don’t advance to the knockout round, but getting out of that first stage is actually a better gauge of total performance. That’s why the NBA Playoffs take place in rounds, not single elimination. Rising atop a group of five NBA teams deserves swift a kick up the standings.
My harebrained idea becoming the new NBA In-Season Tournament format, the likelihood of that happening is far slimmer than Victor Wembanyama’s upper body. I’m not even campaigning for it. I’m simply pointing out a way to add some real meaning to a stretch of NBA play in November.
I’m not telling anybody what to think, I’m just asking if they would like to.