Silver Confident In-Season Tourney Coming In Time

League partners remain interested but asked Adam Silver to slow the push down.

Cody Westerlund
February 15, 2020 - 7:58 pm
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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- NBA commissioner Adam Silver remains confident that an in-season tournament modeled after European soccer and a play-in tournament for the final playoff berths will be implemented in the league down the line.

Silver expressed his belief at his state-of-the-league address ahead of All-Star festivities in Chicago on Saturday evening – about four weeks after news broke that a formal proposal won’t be voted on at the owners’ meetings in April, according to ESPN. Despite that setback, Silver maintains a positive outlook regarding what would mark a major overhaul to the league calendar and back end of the playoff race.

The reason for Silver's confidence came from the feedback that the league received in recent discussions with its teams, the players’ union and its media partners.

“I strongly believe we will end up with some sort of in-season tournament and a play-in tournament, but let’s refocus on all the component parts and do something with the intention that those will be changes we’ll make going forward,” Silver said. “It doesn’t mean forever, but it may mean that we could end up changing course at some point if we don’t think it’s working the way we believe it will, but that seemed to be the consensus.”

Silver has been a strong proponent for the addition of the in-season and play-in tournaments, but his push to get them implemented for the 2021-’22 season – the 75th anniversary of the NBA – stalled out.

He has since adjusted his focus after the other parties more or less had this message for him: slow down a bit.

“When we went to our teams, the players’ association and our media partners – probably our most important constituents – in making changes, the response we got was frankly there was so much interest that they didn’t think it made sense to do it as a one-off,” Silver said. “And I may have been a little naive in thinking that for the 75th anniversary, we can say, ‘Let’s make all these changes, we’ll sort of see what happens at the 75th anniversary and we’ll go from there.’ The sense of virtually all the groups that I spoke to is that these are significant changes – we should fully vet them and deliberate them. And then when it comes time to make them, we should make them.

“We’re not going to know enough from one season. All the discussion about what will happen in an in-season tournament, for example, I mean you could get lucky by particular circumstances or unlucky because of the particular matchups. And I would be stepping back thinking, ‘I’m the one saying I believe we can create new traditions.’ And I think it’s fairly clear, it’s hard to use a data set of one season to say we believe in a new tradition or not. So what we’re now doing is having further conversations with the players and the players’ association and our teams and media partners and saying, 'What are the appropriate changes we should be making?'”

Proposals for the 30-team in-season tournament have included pool play followed by a knockout round, ESPN reported, with the hope that it inspires teams to chase another title and open up revenue windfalls for the league via broadcasting and sponsorship opportunities.

The idea certainly has its critics, as doubt remains about whether teams and notably veteran players would take an in-season tournament seriously – especially during the load management era in which the regular season has already been devalued in the eyes of many. There’s also debate about when on the NBA calendar the in-season tournament should be contested.

The proposals being discussed previously would include a reduction of the regular season from 82 to 78 games, ESPN reported.  

As for the play-in tournament, the proposal that was discussed early on featured the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th seeds in each conference at the end of the regular season battling for the final two playoff spots, ESPN previously reported. The seventh seed would host the eighth seed, with the winner earning the seventh playoff slot. The ninth seed would also host the 10th seed, with the winner of that game advancing to face the loser of the other matchup. The winner of the final game would then earn the eighth and final playoff spot.

Without referencing a specific timeline, Silver believes it’s just a matter of time.

“To me, it’s less about a vote because the very people who are voting are the people we’re working with on precisely what the right format is we should be looking at,” Silver said.

“And I’ll just add to that, I think it also gives us a chance to look more holistically at the season. This issue has come up a lot related to load management, appropriate resting of players. Is 82 games the right number of games in a season? As I’ve said before, that’s been in place for over 50 years now. The game has changed. We know more about health and the physical fitness. Or even if we’re playing the same number of games, should they be played over more days to provide for more rest? So those are all things we’re looking at and trying to – but the end results, and I can’t say exactly when it will be, I think, is a re-presented regular season in the league.”

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.