NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday at a Board of Governors press conference that the NBA is officially considering an idea that's been discussed for some time, the development of an in-season tournament to be played on a neutral site, possibly Las Vegas.
"One of the things that I didn't mention before that the competition committee talked about and seemed excited about is potentially some sort of mid season tournament," Silver said. "Very early days in the discussion of that, but we're looking at other opportunities in the league to create excitement.
"As one of our general managers said at the meeting, there's very few things that you can win in the NBA. I mean, when you think about European soccer, for example, they have the FA Cup and they have other tournaments throughout the season, so I could imagine if we were to look at some sort of mid season tournament I would imagine doing something in Vegas. This would be a terrific neutral site location. "
Some thoughts on this:
• The point being made about how little there is to win is pretty significant here. It's a distinctly un-American concept, but in the NFL, you only play 16 games, then a tournament, and then you're done. College basketball, similar schedule, similar tournament, and you're done. But at least it has multiple tournaments. You can imagine a situation in which a team is able to say "Well, we didn't win the title, but we won the tournament that year." Giving players something to play for is signficant. The challenge is making it mean something. It has to feel like more than just an exhibition, it has to feel like you're actually going to win something.
• The way to do that? Money. You can give a trophy, a belt, whatever, and the players will appreciate that. But put a monetary incentive behind it and all of a sudden you're going to see players in a whole other level on it.
• It would also provide an opportunity for rest before and after the tournament. Take three days off before the tournament, and three days off after. The teams eliminated early would get an extended rest. If you're a championship-caliber team, you might even tank the tournament, which wouldn't be bad as it would open up more unpredictable results. Meanwhile, the Nets, say, could hold out starters, try and make a run with subs, and then if they're eliminated, they get an extra five days to get ready for the back-half of the season.
• The problem here? You have to change the CBA. And that means eliminating regular-season games, because you can't just tack this on for a longer season. It would be interminable. And that means losing revenue.
• And teams and players hate losing revenue. Even if you chop off just ten games from the schedule, which would still be insane, you're still likely extending the schedule another week to two weeks, and you're cutting potentially five home games from a team's revenue stream. That's just killer, even if the profits for the tournament are evenly redistributed. That's a major obstacle here.
• Vegas being the location is both the best idea ever and the worst idea ever. It's the best idea because it's a place that players want to spend time; they'll embrace the idea of attending it there. It's not being stuck in a rotating locale where they don't want to be, and it's warm. It's a destination location so the revenue could be phenomenal; you'd have people planning their weekends around it. It's like hosting the NCAA tournament in Vegas. The opportunity to take a week in February, go to Vegas, watch an NBA tournament, and gamble on it? Fans will flock. It's the worst idea because the NBA's All-Star Weekend in Vegas was a disaster on multiple levels. Outside of the off-court incidents that occurred, there's at least a perception that the city wasn't keen on the event. This would be different, and bigger, but still that's complicated. Personally, I'm all for it because I can't wait to write about which player definitely looked like he was at the craps table until 6 a.m.
• It being a neutral site is a terrific idea, though. They should make it into a huge event, with a media day, concerts, and a fan fest similar to All-Star Weekend.
• The idea may simply not be feasible. But it's forward-thinking. And that fits in with Silver's plan. We'll see if they can actually take this forward in the future, but it's going to be several years before we see it, most likely.