NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been kicking around the idea of an in-season tournament for a while, and recently, the conversations surrounding the tournament have seemingly gotten more serious. Last month, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that the league was in the early stages of proposing the in-season tournament to the NBPA and the NBA’s broadcasting partners, and not much was known beyond that. Now, it sounds like the relevant parties are starting to iron out the details of what the tournament will be, how it will affect players, and when it will go into effect.
According to a report by Wojnarowski on Friday, the NBA is planning to offer a $1 million per player incentive for the winners of the proposed, 30-team, in-season tournament:
The NBA wants an in-season tournament that would begin with pool-play as part of the regular season schedule before the teams with best records advance to an eight-team single-elimination tournament that would culminate in mid-December, league sources said.
For the in-season tournament, the NBA is focused on 30-team participation that begins with a divisional group stage of scheduled regular-season games.
Those pre-knockout-round games would be part of the regular-season schedule. Six divisional winners — based on home and road records in the group stage — and the two teams with the next-best records would advance to a single-elimination knockout round, league sources said.
The rumored $1 million is plenty reason for G League call-ups and players on smaller contracts to compete, but there’s still concerns about whether or not star players would be enthusiastic to participate, and that seems to be the feeling league-wide, too.
Some team executives are skeptical that would be the case. Among the concerns of top front office officials discussing these ideas with the league office: Many suspect that star players might prefer the five-day scheduling break that would come with not qualifying for the tournament rather than competing for the financial reward of a winner-take-all event that requires a quarterfinal, semifinal and title round to become champion.
So right now, it’s looking like a tournament that will heavily feature end-of-bench players, which doesn’t exactly sound like the thing that’s going to improve ratings. Hopefully the league and its players can negotiate something that benefits all parties involved, but that’d have to happen relatively quickly, as Woj reports Silver’s hope is to have this implemented in time for the 2021-22 campaign.