Report: Success of Play-In Games Rekindles NBA’s Interest in Adding Midseason Tournament

The tournament could include a $1 million payout to each player on the winning team

Adam Silver
NBA commissioner Adam Silver at the 70th NBA All-Star Game.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty

Citing sources who weren’t identified, ESPN reported on Sunday that the NBA is eager to restart talks with teams and the Players Association about adding a midseason tournament based on the success of the play-in games prior to this year’s edition of the playoffs.

The play-in games, which produced chalk in the Eastern Conference with the Celtics and Wizards advancing but led to an upset in the West with the Grizzlies taking out the Warriors to advance into the postseason alongside the Lakers, produced the most-watched game of the 2020-21 season on ESPN. Per the network, last week’s telecast of the Lakers vs.Warriors game generated 5,618,000 viewers, the largest audience for an NBA game on ESPN since the 2019 Western Conference Finals.

The popularity of the play-in with the public, not necessarily the players, has made commissioner Adam Silver more optimistic about gaining approval from the Players Association and two-thirds of the NBA’s 30 teams about adding another tournament to the league’s annual schedule.

Previously, the NBA had discussed an eight-team single-elimination tournament that would be incentivized with $1 million per player payouts to the winning team. Prior to the tourney, a period of pool play embedded into the league’s regular-season schedule would determine the teams that would play in the single-elimination tournament, according to ESPN.

In whatever form an added tournament could potentially take, it is too late for the league to consider the idea for the 2021-22 season, but the NBA could start exploring the prospect again with teams and the NBPA as soon as this year.

“Among the questions that the league likely still needs to address to teams: Could franchises — especially those in big markets — be assured that there wouldn’t be gate revenue losses by shortening the regular season to 78 games to accommodate the tournament?,” according to ESPN. “Some teams had been hesitant to incur short-term losses on potentially losing two home dates, especially when those games had been worth anywhere between $2.5 million and $4 million in pre-pandemic times.”

Should the NBPA ever put the proposal up for a vote, don’t expect injured Denver Nuggets’ guard Jamal Murray to support the idea.

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