Change can either be for the better or worse. Traditionalists oppose change, whereas others welcome new inceptions with open arms.
Multiple sports have chosen to implement new formats, rules, and technologies in the hope of enhancing their respective codes.
Look at football for example when they introduced the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) seven years ago to minimise the errors made by the match officials in real-time. The UEFA Nations League has been a huge success by replacing dull international friendlies with a tournament that actually means something.
Tennis made the decision to stick with automated line calls after the pandemic to reduce mistakes made by the line judges. Some argue that the sport has lost its purity and tradition in being able to challenge.
Then there’s the NBA which adopted a play-in tournament to determine the final two playoff seeds in each conference from positions seven to 10.
Fast forward three years later, the same association has drawn up an in-season tournament held during the regular season, which officially commenced on Saturday AEDT.
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Receiving the most attention has been the colourful court designs that have unquestionably divided opinion in terms of a viewing spectacle.
The inaugural change is much needed for the NBA to modify an 82-game season offering a repetitive narrative.
Before delving into the importance of the new change, how exactly does the in-season tournament work?
A group stage phase will take place consisting of three groups of five in each conference as each team meets each other once in November, leading to a knockout phase made up of the group winners and the two best second-place finishers the following month.
The champions will win the NBA Cup which will see the players pocket $500,000 each as each game will count toward the regular season except for the championship match.
Basketball fans may feel as though there is no need to fix what’s not broken, but this decision is fundamental in terms of growing the brand.
One of the main goals that’s hoped to be achieved includes attracting more interest during the regular season to compete with the NFL, America’s most popular sport.
The planning is very strategic; scheduling tournament fixtures on Wednesdays and Saturdays to exploit the advantage of no NFL competition.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver commented on the motivational levels of the players competing and why it shouldn’t be viewed as just any other regular season game.
“Part of the initial reaction from players is ‘Why would we care?’ It’s interesting with getting close to a third of our players now who were born outside the United States, they’re very familiar with this Cup notion from European soccer or soccer tournaments elsewhere in the world,” Silver said.
That right there is the ultimate question – How is the tournament going to be sold to the players?
Financially, there’s an obvious incentive because the teams along with the players are entitled to a large portion of the pool prize money the further they advance.
More importantly however, there will be a golden opportunity for franchises who may not fancy their chances of winning the NBA championship to win silverware.
Surely, this will do nothing but drive up competition all whilst vying for season wins at the same time.
One of the frustrations that have lingered amongst supporters is buying tickets to games only to learn just before tip-off that a star has been left out due to injury or rest.
The in-season tournament decreases the likelihood of players sitting out games they should be participating in due to there being two things on the line; a trophy and money.
For the spectators, they will receive value for their buck not only for seeing the best players on the floor but also for having an additional competition to get behind.
From the outside looking in, this has all the makings of a win-win scenario for all parties involved.
No doubt there will be adjustments to the format as time goes on, but the NBA has taken the right course of action to elevate its product to another level.
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