The NBA is finally instituting a long-rumored mid-season tournament as part of its new collective bargaining agreement, but in all of the years the idea was discussed, an exact structure was never publicly proposed. According to Yahoo's Ben Rohrbach, though, the league has settled on a basic framework for the event, which could start as soon as next season. Here is what we know so far:
- The league will be divided into six pools of five teams apiece. The pools will be composed of teams from the same conference, but that does not mean they will be based on divisions.
- On designated days during the first six weeks of the season, teams will play four group games. That means they will play each team in their pool once, with two games coming at home and two coming on the road.
- The winner of each of the six pools will advance to the single-elimination stage along with two wildcard teams. The exact method of determining the wildcard teams has not been specified.
- The semifinals and finals of the tournament will be held at a neutral site.
- The players on the winning tournament team would receive $500,000 each.
- The NBA's schedule, released in the offseason, will include only 80 games apiece for each team. The teams that do not advance to the knockout stage will have two more games added to their schedule. The teams that reach the tournament finals will play 83 total games.
The idea of the in-season tournament is still relatively new by American standards. The WNBA has had one called the Commissioner's Cup over the past two seasons, and it will surely be studied by the NBA to see what worked and what didn't. This sort of competition is more common in European soccer.
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The problem that the league has yet to address is how to get teams to take the tournament seriously. While the possibility of $500,000 apiece will matter to players, there is no reason at present for teams to care about pool-play games in the tournament more than any other regular-season games. If this event is going to succeed, the NBA is going to have to prove that both teams and players will take it seriously.