When commissioner Adam Silver took office in February, he said he was open to new ideas and he apparently meant it.
According to a report, the league is exploring options as to how it could add a mid-season tournament to its schedule—sort of the way the rest of the world has multiple events in the midst of their league seasons.
Silver broached the subject in July at a meeting of the Board of Governors meeting.
“As one of our general managers said at the meeting, there’s very few things that you can win in the NBA. I mean, when you think about European soccer, for example, they have the FA Cup and they have other tournaments throughout the season, so I could imagine if we were to look at some sort of mid-season tournament I would imagine doing something in Vegas. This would be a terrific neutral site location.”
This is not something that’s likely to happen this year, but it’s more than just a throwaway notion.
The NBA Fan Forum sent out surveys asking for input on how to put together such an event.
There are a few things, according to the report, that have emerged as solid parts of the plan.
The tournament would be a midseason event, played in a single-elimination format and the final would be played during All-Star weekend.
As far as how many teams and which ones, that’s up in the air, with the survey asking fans for their preferred matchups and bracket sizes. There was also a question about whether or not international club teams should be included.
Would the event be spread out, with early rounds played at other sites—neutral or at a home venue—with more regular-season play between the early rounds and the later ones? Or would it be a continuous event over a shorter period of time (say during an All-Star break that was just extended this year … that Adam Silver, such a clever dude!)
Fans were also quizzed about what sort of a prize a tournament should have, suggestions including a guaranteed playoff berth, a seeding reward or a financial prize.
My instinct tells me not to tie it to the playoffs—if it’s going to be a separate thing, then make it a separate thing; don’t marry it to the regular postseason.
The final question was a loaded one—should the tournament replace the All-Star Game?
The knee-jerk reaction is to think no. But then there was this little, quiet voice clearing its throat and intoning, “On the other hand …”
One of the things fans and critics blast the NBA for is the length of the season, specifically the times during the season when players are either fighting through the back end of a back-to-back or the final game of a four-games-in-five-nights stretch, events that will be more frequent in 2014-15 because of the extended All-Star break.
So follow along with me—a midseason tournament, with teams either selected by some sort of merit system, or a qualifying system (maybe an early round of round-robin games like pool play), would be hugely popular. Think March Madness, only with the very best players in the world competing.
So, if you’re a television network that currently doesn’t have an NBA presence, would the idea of carrying a standalone tournament be something you might want to bid on?
Or, if you’re a television network that does currently partner with the NBA, would the idea of preventing a competitor from carrying a standalone tournament be something you might want to bid on?
And what if—and yes, this is crazy talk, but a little indulgence is requested—the rights to such a tournament produced so much revenue for the NBA that the owners could be convinced to … gasp!!! … shed some games from the regular-season schedule?
That would, in turn, create fewer of the dreaded back-to-backs and four-in-five scenarios fans, players and even the Easter Bunny disapprove of.
Would that be worth sacrificing the All-Star Game? To have something bigger, broader and more meaningful in its place?
Like, say, a tournament whose winner was to receive a prize of great value? A tournament whose winner would be awarded something like …
… the first overall pick in the next draft, perhaps?
While such an idea might force Sam Hinkie to rethink his Hundred Years War-style rebuild of the Philadelphia 76ers, it might also have a double-sided effect.
A tournament that would be fun and competitive that also eliminates—or greatly reduces—the incentive for general managers to deliberately assemble their own little versions of the Washington Generals in order to collect ping pong balls.
Yeah, that could be worth an All-Star Game sacrifice.