A few weeks ago, we told you about a series of initiatives the NBA is proposing that would change the format of the regular season and the postseason.
For these policy changes to be implemented, the league will need the permission of its Players Association. And late last week, sources told ESPN about a financial incentive that might make it all more palatable.
The NBA is contemplating prize money of $1 million per player on the team that wins its proposed 30-team, in-season tournament.
Even though the average NBA salary is approximately $9 million, you could see how this carrot at the end the stick could entice players to accept the format and treat it with the spirit the league envisions.
The NBA is looking for ways to enhance fan engagement. Its television ratings have been down this season. It also figures an in-season tournament might attract addition advertising revenue and a marketing boost.
According to the NBA, an in-season tournament would begin with pool play as part of the regular-season schedule. Then the teams with the best records would advance to an eight-team, single-elimination tournament ending in December.
ESPN’s sources say the 30-team format would begin with a divisional group of regular-season games. Six divisional winners – based on home and road records in the group stage – and the two teams with the next-best records would advance to a single-elimination knockout round.
The NBA has already encountered some resistance from executives who believe the players might like a five-day break that would come with not qualifying for the final phase of the tournament. The time to relax would apparently trump the desire to win the money.
Of course, nothing will happen with this plan unless the players agree to it. The NBA needs two-thirds of the teams and the National Basketball Players Association to agree in time to begin things on comissioner Adam Silver’s timeline – in the league’s 75th anniversary season in 2021-22.
According to ESPN, the owners of large market teams, which already are making boat loads of money in the regular season, are skeptical about the new plan which would also shorten the season by four games. That would cost each team two home games, which the NBA estimates are worth between $2.7 and $4 million each.
These fears would be alleviated if the NBA was successful in securing more money through add-on television rights and enhanced sponsorship deals. The way they would do this is by including the new tournament as part of its inventory down the road.
What could be the problem with all of this? Well, consider the issue of parity. Players who believe their income in the league might be limited might decide to sign with only teams with a legitimate shot of winning the tournament.
And even with the added incentive of the $1 million, a team with championship aspirations could just say they want the time off at the end of the tournament instead of participating from the quarterfinals on down.
“You fight for an NBA championship. I don’t want to play for anything else,” Rockets forward P.J. Tucker told Yahoo Sports earlier this month. “Like, what else is there? There’s nothing else. It’s like a consolation or something? I don’t know? You play in games to win a championship. Period.”
The New York Times reported the league was also considering offering the winning team in the tournament additional draft picks as an incentive for participating.
Maybe the league could enhance that by offering the winning team a lottery pick un the following year’s draft. Still, would that be worth the risk of getting one of their players hurt in such a tournament?
Among the other changes the league is proposing are an adjustment to the league calendar that includes the post-Thanksgiving tournament, a play-in for the seventh and eighth conference playoff seeds and reseeding for the semifinals based on the regular season.