Its name may be clunky and its format byzantine, but the NBA’s in-season tournament is here.
In an effort to spice up the regular season, the league has instituted an alternate competition seemingly patterned after European soccer leagues’ knockout tournaments. The winner of the tournament—which will be contested in a group and knockout stage—will receive the NBA Cup, and each of that team’s players will receive $500,000.
The nature of the tournament—and its status as the first of its kind in the Big Four leagues—has invited commentary from players and fans. Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton’s suggestion to Yahoo! Sports was a particularly eye-opening idea.
“I think the greatest incentive for everybody to do it would be an automatic playoff bid,” he said. “If it was a playoff spot, I think everyone would take it very, very serious, right? I think the older teams would take it serious. But then it might … what would [the winning team] do then?”
The most obvious parallel for Haliburton’s idea would be the NCAA basketball tournaments, where teams that win their conference tournaments receive automatic invitations to the Big Dance. However, the Iowa State product seemed to concede his idea needed some fine-tuning.
“I don’t know how you’d necessarily do it, that’s really hard to do,” Haliburton said. “By the end of the year, if the oldest team won, they’d be like, ‘We’re not playing for real. We’re the eight seed, we don’t care, we’re in.’ That’d be the only bad effect.”