The NBA wants to hold an in-season tournament patterned after the European soccer leagues. However, they miss the point of why those events are so popular, which is why in addition to the Detroit Pistons, the Motor City Cruise, other G-League teams and other pro teams should be made part of it.
It appears the NBA office is bound and determined to hold an in-season tournament, maybe as soon as next season. This despite the loud ‘meh’ from everyone else.
The reasoning is not bad. Early season NBA regular season games are not high on many sports fans radar. There is the NFL (the Lions do not stink!) as well as college football keeping the main focus for the fall/early winter season.
It is not until the Christmas Day games (not that the Pistons get to be part of of it), when the general public starts following the NBA.
European soccer leagues are successful with being involved in tournaments, while at the same time playing their regular league schedule. So why shouldn’t the NBA give it a try.
They should, but they are doing it all wrong.
NBA Commissioner Adam SIlver wants to have this as an exclusively NBA affair. According to the info leaked to Shams Charania (i.e. trial balloon to see peoples reaction), most of the games would be incorporated into the regular season, with certain games designated ‘Cup’ games.
Eight teams then play a single elimination tournament while the rest go about their regularly scheduled games. Two teams will play an extra games, giving them 83 before the start of the playoffs,
Problems with NBA in-season tournament proposed format
First, it sounds like a logistical nightmare. Most soccer teams own their own stadiums and can shuffle things around. Imagine if the Detroit Pistons have a scheduled Wednesday home game against the Utah Jazz, but make the eight-team playoff field, and now they are in Boston in the first round.
Who does Utah play then, and what about the Pistons fans who bought tickets to that game? And what if the circus is in Boston Garden at that time (many teams go on planned, long road trips due to that, a rodeo or an ice show). Where do they play the game?
And what if the a big West team, like the Golden State Warriors is making its lone appearance at Little Caesars Arena, but they make the 8-team field and are redirected to Sacramento? That will not go over well, as many basketball fans look forward to seeing Steph Curry, Draymond Green etc. in person.
Also, the NBA has still given no real incentive for winning this. The Play-in tournament works because there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (making the real playoffs). So far, all we heard is $1 million to each player on the winning team.
The top players make $35-45 million a year, think they care? LeBron James can rest and not hurt the Lakers in the standings, or a million dollars? Guess what he chooses.
But the major problem with the in-season tournament is that it does not follow the format of the successful soccer in-season tournament: Everyone plays Everyone!
Why Detroit Pistons and rest of NBA must play semi-pro and G-League teams
The FA Cup in England and even the U.S. Open soccer championship in America are interesting because teams not in the top division get a rare chance to play the big guns.
Some third-division club in Cornwall takes on Manchester CIty in the FA Cup, or a USL soccer team in the US Open plays the Philadelphia Union, the top team in the MLS. That is kind of interesting. A bit of a David vs. Goliath feeling.
Do the underdog win? Usually not, but it is at least different.
Having NBA teams only play other NBA teams? Well, you can see that any time.
The Motor City Cruise, the Pistons G-League team, against the Toronto Raptors, that would be something Detroit fans would tune in for. The Cruise players would love to show they can play against NBA players (that is, after all, kind of the point of the G-League).
It would give young players who normally are riding the bench for Detroit a chance to play a lot against real high-level competition. Would the Cruise lose, probably, but they would have as good a chance as, say, in college football, Marshall beating Notre Dame or Georgia Southern beating Nebraska.
It would also be kind of cool if a semi-pro or pro-am leagues get to compete. Maybe have a summer tournament, with the winner getting a spot in the NBA in-season tournament.
The obvious answer as why this idea is not being adopted is: $$$
The NBA does not have to share any of the tournament gate receipts this way, and do not doubt its national TV partners indicated they would pay extra for tournament playoff games. Why should the NBA owners share with anyone?
The reason to add outside teams is, they would get higher ratings as the tournament would be more interesting and thus more TV money could be had. But this is a pure money grab, so we will not see it, unless the TV networks insist in the future if the ratings are low.