Editors note: I have been trying to get my brother and fellow NBA aficionado, Steve, to step up and post for the site, as he often times has very high-quality rants that typically have to do with business/marketing decisions the league makes–and that’s his area of expertise. We call these rants ‘Steve Peeves’. And they’ll make a perfect addition to our NBA Suggestion Box series.
The good news: the NBA’s In-Season tourney looks like it may work well to spice up the doldrums of the season in November and December. The bad news: there are some design flaws that need to be fixed up.
While the In-Season tourney seems to be a welcome addition to the (sometimes tedious) NBA season, the way it was rolled out and the way it will be played is somewhat janky and confusing. The league fell flat on the design of the group play and knockout rounds, yet they may have nailed the tail end of the tourney where the final four teams will play in Las Vegas for an in-season championship weekend which will no doubt capture a lot of attention and be enjoyable to watch.
As planned, teams will have group play games from November 3rd through the 28th, yet only some games during that period will count toward the tourney record. That’s fine, in theory, but the tourney games are intermixed each week with various of other regular season games that don’t count–confused yet? Then, the top six teams plus two wildcard teams will advance to the single-elimination knockout rounds on December 3-4.
They say that all tourney games will count towards a team’s regular season record which makes sense, but by ‘tangling up’ the tourney games with random regular season games throughout November it’s going to be confusing to follow while also taking away some of the specialness that could be a executed in a true in-season tourney format.
Correcting the design flaws of the group play and knockout portions may be as easy as following a March Madness-like plan where “regionals” are held and each team plays their group stage games all together over a seven or eight day period. Yes, this ‘takes away’ some home games for teams which does equal lost gate revenue, but each team within a group can rotate hosting the group stage every 5th season, thus replacing those mediocre mid-season/mid-week games with an exciting “tournament” coming to town where fans could spend a few hundo on a week long pass and go watch double or triple headers each day for several days in a row with other league events happening in/around the stadiums. Plus, the league could set up a system where the host teams share gate revenue with everyone in their group erasing any argument from money-hungry owners who don’t want to wait to recoup their cash for five years.
This would bring with it more of an all star weekend/regional march madness/summer league/fan con kind of feel and bring excitement into each NBA town once every five years with fans travelling from all over the country (and the world for that matter!) to watch a group stage round. Then, the winners can move onto knockout stages which could also rotate cities to replace some of the lost home games or they could even consider moving those stages to Vegas too. The NBA Experiences team would have a field day with this, creating different ‘official experience’ packages for fans at NBA stadiums across the country. Sound too good to be true? Well, they already have this cued up for the championship weekend in Vegas to the tune of $39,999 per person for the ‘Ultimate’ semifinal and championship package.
Let’s be honest, a Tuesday night game in November against a sub .500 team is normally not all that exciting anyway and bringing more of an “event” feel to all of this would benefit everyone in the long run. And if planned properly, the stadiums and owners will still see just as many through the turnstiles. By moving the league as a whole into tourney play for a weekend or two or three, then back out into regular season play it will have more of a tourney/special event feel and less like a “Hey it’s Tuesday, and you’re playing a team you were going to play anyway but don’t forget this one ‘counts’ for this other random tourney,” which it currently feels like.
The idea of an in-season tourney is a great one, and the NBA spent a lot of time (and marketing dollars) launching it this month. With some minor tweaks it can truly become what they want it to be: the NBA version of a quasi-international soccer tourney. But sadly, as designed, the games very much feel like regular season ones that happen to count for the tourney record, and with the exception of the Las Vegas finals, the NBA will not reach the bar it had hoped to.
Reference: In-Season Tournament 101: Rules, format and how it works via NBA.com