In recent years we’ve seen a number of changes to the NBA schedule. Some have been temporary alterations necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, while others, like the play-in tournament, are permanent additions. Looking ahead, there could be even more developments in the years to come.
On Monday, the league’s competition committee met to discuss a number of topics during their annual offseason meeting. Among them is a potential in-season tournament with a prize pool of $1 million per player, according to a report from Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Further details are scarce at this point, and there is currently no timeline for when this specific iteration of the idea might be implemented. The general concept of an in-season tournament has been floated around for a few years now, but nothing has ever been finalized.
Earlier this year, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that NBA commissioner Adam Silver was hopeful that the success of the play-in tournament could generate more interest in an in-season competition that would be based on the models used by European soccer leagues. Before such an event could be implemented, both the players union and at least two-thirds of the league’s teams would have to come to an agreement. As it stands, there are still concerns from both parties, per Wojnarowski.
This summer, the WNBA debuted an in-season competition called the Commissioner’s Cup that largely failed as an initiative. In order to avoid including extra games on the schedule, the league made certain regular season games “cup games” and after the first half of the season the two teams with the best record in “cup games” met in the championship. It was confusing for both fans and players, many of whom didn’t understand the format and didn’t seem to care.
Figuring out the logistics and format will be the primary focus for the NBA as they try to move forward with an in-season competition, but the biggest challenge will be the same as the one the WNBA faced. How do you make it matter, not only to paying customers, but to the players and teams that would be involved?