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Adam Silver talks about a mid-season tournament coming to the NBA… eventually



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If you follow the Barclays Premiere League you know that the ultimate prize is the league championship. But there are other team trophies to win as well: the domestic FA cup, as well as European competitions such as the Champions League or UEFA Europa League. (As a Newcastle fan I’m not sure I ever expect to see any of those so long as our ownership stays the same.)

In the NBA, there is the Larry O’Brien trophy. And that’s it.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver is thinking about changing that by adding an NBA mid-season tournament. He floated the idea back in August and it garnered a little buzz — our Brett Pollakoff broke down how it might be put together — but that’s not just sizzle to the league.

Silver talked about it in more detail with Howard Beck of Bleacher Report in a video interview (it’s worth watching all of it, they cover some other interesting topics).

“I and others at the league office have spent a lot of time studying the Champions League for European soccer and other types of cups and mid-season tournaments,” Silver said in the interview. “Now there there’s a long tradition, but maybe there’s the opportunity to create a new tradition. And to create more competitions. Right now everything is about the Larry O’Brien trophy but soccer operates a little differently, they have different cups, which may not be as important as the championship but in their own right are highly significant.

“Those are not the kinds of changes that are going to happen in a year, or maybe even in two or three years, but they are the kinds of development for the league that needs to be studied over time.”

The idea of a mid-season tournament raises a lot of interesting questions. Assuming it’s a single-elimination, NCAA style tournament with all 30 NBA teams, do you just do it over 10 days in the middle of the season (maybe with the “final four” at the All-Star Game week/weekend)? Then do you need to shorten the 82-game regular season to accommodate that? How would some teams feel about losing home game dates to make room for this?

Silver said that right now things are exploratory.

“Conceivably what a mid-season tournament could look like is you have some number of teams — it could begin with all the teams and have a single-elimination type tournament — and this is a case where by floating the idea I got some good suggestions back over the transom, so to speak. It may be a chance to bring in some international clubs,” Silver said.

That’s an interesting idea, for a single-elimination tournament you would need 32 teams, so why not try to bring over Barcelona and Maccabi Tel Aviv (or whoever)?

Of course, the real question is money. And incentive for the franchises.

The team that wins the FA cup in England will get 1.8 million pounds, (nearly $3 million). Winner of the Champions League gets the equivalent of $13.4 million. Teams get money for each round they win as they move up the ladder in that tournament.

If you want the best of the NBA to showcase in this tournament, you’re going to have to provide an incentive for players — meaning some healthy cash — and you’re going to have to provide a quality incentive for the best teams not to just tank it and get their stars some extra rest. That could come in the form of confirmed playoff seedings (automatic home court in the first round) or maybe an improved draft standing in some way. You need a reason that even Gregg Popovich would be willing to play guys in this kind of tournament and try to win it.

Adam Silver is thinking out of the box in a way David Stern did not. It’s refreshing. But if these kinds of things were easy or did not have tradeoffs they’d already be done. It’s going to take some give to get.

If this happen — and it’s certainly still an if — it is years away.

But it is not out of the question.