AP Photo/Charles Krupa
NBA commissioner Adam Silver told reporters at his annual All-Star Weekend press conference that the league does not plan to implement an in-season tournament for the 2022-23 season, but that the league is still strongly considering adding it in the future.
Silver transitioned from a conversation about the play-in tournament into the possibility of an in-season competition (h/t Joe Vardon of The Athletic).
“Related to that, to me, in terms of trying new things, then does it make sense to look at some other concepts we’ve talked about, like an in-season tournament,” Silver said. “In some ways, the players have been more receptive to the possibility of an in-season tournament, because the Play-In has been a bit more successful.”
As noted by Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press in Dec. 2019, the talk of an in-season competition separate from regular-season play has been on the table since 2016. There was even a specific proposal in place for the 2021-22 season, which Reynolds relayed.
“The proposal calls for teams to play eight divisional games in the group stage of the event, which would begin Nov. 24, 2021 and continue through Dec. 11. (The NBA said the dates are tentative.) The group stage games—four home, four away—would count toward a team’s regular-season total.
“The six division winners and two wild cards would qualify for the quarterfinals on Dec. 13 and 14, 2021. Semifinals would be played as a doubleheader on Dec. 16 and the title game would be played two days later—with the semis and finals at a neutral site like Las Vegas. Players on the winning team would split $15 million; the winning coaching staff would split $1.5 million.
“The NBA said that there is the potential for ‘additional prizing for players on the remaining final four teams’ and that other incentives for teams and fans were ‘to be determined.'”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski then reported on Dec. 25, 2021 that there was “renewed momentum for the creation of a future in-season NBA tournament among the league’s 30 teams.”
“Negotiations have centered on an in-season tournament that would begin with pool play as part of the regular-season schedule prior to teams with the best records advancing to an eight-team, single-elimination tournament that would culminate prior to Christmas, sources said. The proposal also would shorten the regular season from 82 to 78 games, sources said.
“The sides have discussed a purse of $1 million per player for the winning team, and the players could see more financial and competitive incentives before an agreement on the format, sources said. The NBA has been motivated with the prospects of lucrative television and sponsorship revenue that it is hopeful would deliver long-term financial growth.”
Any changes to the regular-season structure would be implemented in 2023-24 at the earliest.
The WNBA already has an in-season tournament in the Commissioner’s Cup. Each team’s first home and road game against a conference rival counts toward the Commissioner’s Cup standings (10 matchups total).
The Eastern and Western Conference winners then play for in the Commissioner’s Cup Championship Game, which will be held this year on July 26. A prize pool awaits.
The NBA has seen some success and excitement with the play-in tournament, which is going ahead for the third straight year.
The current iteration sees the seventh through 10th teams in each conference compete for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern and Western Conferences.
Last year saw LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers and Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors face off with the winner going to the playoffs. L.A. won that one before Ja Morant’s Grizzlies upset the Dubs in another classic to go to the postseason.
We’ll see if any new regular-season tournament would add more drama and intrigue, but for now, two regular-season months remain before the play-in tournament begins.