According to ESPN, the NBA is revisiting the idea of adding a new in-season tournament, not unlike the WNBA’s Commissioner’s Cup, and it could begin as early as 2022-23. Acceptance of the proposal would also mean reducing the current number of regular games per season, from 82 to 78.
The concept was initially floated by league commish Adam Silver five years ago, and support has fluctuated since then. However, it’s since regained traction with making the adjustments needed to offset short-term financial hits, and so fans may finally see the tournament come to life.
The tourney would tentatively start around Thanksgiving season and end near Christmastime, as the eight teams with the best records engage in single-elimination play. Currently, the plan is for members of the winning squad to receive $1 million each while the coaching staff divvies up $1.5 million, and further incentives are being discussed as all parties near a deal.
However, the owners of big-market teams have been slow to agree to this. Swapping four regular-season games in exchange for exhibition play could result in losses of $2.7 million to $4 million for the respective home teams. Plus, there is increased concern about the rise of injuries over the past few seasons, especially post-COVID.
Silver has pointed to the success of similar cup tournaments and friendlies in association football, though, and he believes there are longer-term benefits to consider.
“You have to make your product as good as you can because you’re no longer competing with another sports choice — it’s everything else that people can view and can do,” media exec John Kosner told CNBC this past June when talks of the addition picked up steam again.
Kosner has more than 40 years of working in sports media, and he was in charge of ESPN’s digital and print media departments from 2012 through 2017. He noted that the league could spice things up even more if they somehow involved draft picks in the mix. “If they created a mid-season tournament, with something at stake,” Kosner said, “you’ll get people to watch.”
Silver, team bigwigs, and the NBPA are expected to resume serious talks on the matter during the upcoming 2022 All-Star Weekend in Cleveland.
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