Imitating soccer’s FA Cup in England and Copa del Rey in Spain, the NBA has announced a new, in-season tournament. The intent is to generate interest and captivate viewers during what is typically the saggy part of the season. (And, possibly put a few more dollars in the coffers?)
According to NBA executive vice president of basketball strategy and analytics, Evan Wasch, the NBA aims to harness the captivating win-or-go-home atmosphere that exists in other sports. Said Wasch, “NBA players are among the most competitive people on the planet when you put them in these single-elimination situations, in these special environments with that look and feel, with this prize money, with these recognitions on the line, we think the rest will do itself.
The winner of the tournament will claim the soon-to-be-prestigious NBA Cup. Following the tournament, individual honors will include Most Valuable Player of the In-Season Tournament (or, as we call it, the MVPOTIST) and the All-Tournament Team.
Scheduled for November and December, the tournament will encompass 67 games. Tournament games will occur on Tuesdays and Fridays throughout November, commencing on Friday, November 3.
The tournament will commence with a round-robin group stage, followed by single-elimination rounds for the final eight teams, consisting of quarterfinals, semifinals, and a final. Quarterfinals will be held on December 4-5. The semifinals and finals will be played on December 7 and December 9, respectively, in Las Vegas.
Teams will participate in four matches against the teams in their group. Two games will take place at home, two on the road. The group’s winner and a wild card entry from each conference will advance to the quarterfinals. Wild card teams will be those with the best record that finished second in their group.
Although the groups have been unveiled, the specific schedule and television details for the In-Season Tournament won’t be revealed until August. Groups were chosen by teams’ 2022-23 regular-season record, drawn from these five “pots.”
Pot 1: The teams with the three best prior-season records in a conference.
Pot 2: The teams with the fourth-through-sixth-best prior-season records.
Pot 3: The teams with the seventh-through-ninth-best prior-season records.
Pot 4: The teams with the 10th-through-12th-best prior-season records.
Pot 5: The teams with the 13th-through-15th-best prior-season records.
(From the NBA’s Official Release.)
And the groups break down like this:
East Group A: Philadelphia 76ers; Cleveland Cavaliers; Atlanta Hawks; Indiana Pacers; Detroit Pistons
East Group B: Milwaukee Bucks; New York Knicks; Miami Heat; Washington Wizards; Charlotte Hornets
East Group C: Boston Celtics; Brooklyn Nets; Toronto Raptors; Chicago Bulls; Orlando Magic
West Group A: Memphis Grizzlies; Phoenix Suns; Los Angeles Lakers; Utah Jazz; Portland Trail Blazers
West Group B: Denver Nuggets; Los Angeles Clippers; New Orleans Pelicans; Dallas Mavericks; Houston Rockets
West Group C: Sacramento Kings; Golden State Warriors; Minnesota Timberwolves; Oklahoma City Thunder; San Antonio Spurs
Players from teams that advance to the quarterfinals and beyond will receive cash bonuses. Each player on the championship-winning team will receive $500,000, while players on the runner-up will earn $200,000 each. Players on the losing semifinalist teams will take home $100,000 apiece, and those on teams eliminated in the quarterfinals will receive $50,000 each.
Those teams excluded from the quarterfinals will play games on off-nights of the tournament after group play is finished. All teams will still complete their regular-season quota of 82 games.
Did you follow all that? Great, because I’m still a little muddy on the details. For fun, imagine a scenario where a player wins the NBA Cup for one team, is traded at the deadline, and then wins the Larry O’Brien Trophy with another. Or, what if a team goes all-out to win the NBA Cup and tanks the rest of the season for a lottery pick? My head spins. Crazy days in the Association!