The 20/21 Play-in Tournament was a huge success -- the game between the Lakers and the Warriors alone became the most-watched NBA game on ESPN since the ’19 Western Conference finals between the Warriors and the Trail Blazers -- and the league is already thinking about taking it a step further.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the NBA is looking to reinitiate the conversation with its teams and players about implementing a midseason tournament -- the concept was discussed before the pandemic but never reached a vote of the board of governors.
Adam Silver, a proponent of the idea, is optimistic the success of the Play-in should be enough to re-start the discussion. However, some NBA players - Jamal Murray in particular - have already voiced their displeasure about it.
The NBA would base the midseason tournament on European soccer's model, adding it to the traditional NBA schedule. "The league had discussed an eight-team single-elimination tournament that would be incentivized with $1 million per player payouts to the winning team," Wojnarowski reported. "The NBA had discussed a scenario of pool play embedded into the regular-season schedule to determine those teams advancing into the single-elimination tournament."
The obvious pro of this idea is the implementation of another competitive format, which, just like the Play-in, would make the regular season more exciting. Financial benefits for the winners, as well as the league, are also undeniable.
The biggest potential for pushback is once again among the players, and an immediate reaction by the Nuggets star proves it. They want to see the regular season shortened; any extra games are overkill -- especially since the concept NBA is proposing seems to be separate from the Larry O'Brien which is the ultimate award every player is chasing.
Over the years, European players talked about why such a format wouldn't work in the US. "This is the NBA," said Mario Hezonja, now playing in Greece for Panathinaikos. "Come on. They're trying to be like Europe? No way." Evan Fournier shared the same sentiment.
Every cup means something in Europe. If you win the Euroleague championship, that's the biggest thing. Then there's the French Cup and the Copa del Rey. That means something to the fans in those countries. But the NBA is all about winning the championship. You want a ring. If they create a second tournament, nobody cares. Period.
Evan Fournier, Bleacher Report
The NBA's efforts to implement a more competitive nature into the regular season, as well as the All-Star Game, is something to celebrate. But their midseason tournament proposal might be a step too far, at least judging by an initial reaction it caused.