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Report: With in-season tournament, NBA would shorten regular season to 78 games

NBA 78

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - DECEMBER 23: Head coach Doc Rivers of the Philadelphia 76ers speaks with referee Evan Scott #78 in a game against the Washington Wizards at Wells Fargo Center on December 23, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s pet idea of an in-season tournament is reportedly gaining traction.

Just how would it work?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Negotiations have centered on an in-season tournament that would begin with pool play as part of the regular-season schedule prior to teams with the best records advancing to an eight-team, single-elimination tournament that would culminate prior to Christmas, sources said. The proposal also would shorten the regular season from 82 to 78 games, sources said.

Previously, there’s been some apprehensiveness over the idea among big-market owners -- especially those who generate larger home-game revenue streams, sources said. Teams had expressed uneasiness on absorbing short-term losses by dropping two home dates to introduce the tournament, especially when those games can be worth between $2.7 million and $4 million for the most profitable big-market teams, sources said.

The league has had to work to make certain that the financial reductions for teams and players because of the shortened regular season would initially be break-even -- with the hope of more considerable financial gains in the long run.

The NBA would be eliminating 60 regular-season games and creating just seven tournament games.

Those tournament games would be higher profile. But that’s a lot of inventory to offset – especially because the tournament games won’t necessarily be that high profile.

It’s difficult to see American fans becoming enthralled with an in-season tournament, especially during football season. The play-in tournament works so well because it enhances the regular season and provides high-stakes postseason games that are part of the road to a championship. The in-season tournament would exist for itself – a far tougher sell.

Initially, it probably matters most what TV networks – negotiating new contracts – think in-season-tournament games are worth. From there, actual viewership will influence decisions.

Shortening the schedule would allow players more time to rest. Of course, the further a team goes in the tournament, the less rest it gets. Some teams might even prefer to miss the tournament.

A reduced schedule would also increase ticket prices, as the supply of tickets would decrease. That’s bad news for marginal ticket-buying fans.

But if the TV revenue is there, that’d explain why the proposal is gaining momentum.