In a move to inject some excitement into its regular season, the National Basketball Association has unveiled its new in-season tournament.
The NBA Cup is a European cup-style competition that adds some sizzle to the early season schedule. Players on the winning team will get $500,000 each.
“This is a concept that has been rumbling around the league office for around 15 years,” Commissioner Adam Silver said on a special episode of “NBA Today” from “NBA Con” as part of the league’s annual gathering in Las Vegas. “We thought what a perfect opportunity for a global league like the NBA, and it’s a perfect fit for our game.
“New traditions take time. But, all throughout sports, we are seeing new innovations, and now is the time for this NBA in-season tournament.”
The league unveiled the six five-team groups — three made up of Eastern Conference teams and three made up of Western Conference foes — that will be in the group stage of the tournament:
The teams were grouped by splitting each conference into five pots that were separated by last year’s regular-season standings. Pot 1 featured the teams that finished first through third — so, in the East, the Bucks, Celtics and 76ers; followed by teams 4-6 landing in Pot 2 (Cavaliers, Knicks and Nets); teams 7-9 landing in Pot 3 (Hawks, Heat, Raptors); teams 10-12 landing in Pot 4 (Bulls, Pacers and Wizards); and teams 13-15 landing in Pot 5 (Magic, Hornets and Pistons).
From there, one team was randomly selected from each of the five pots.
The group play portion of the tournament will consist of four games — one against each of the other four teams across each group — that will take place on seven dates throughout November. This year, those dates will be Nov. 3, 10, 14, 17, 21, 24 and 28 — a combination of four Fridays and three Tuesdays.
Evan Wasch, the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball strategy, said that the league is going to try its best to have back-to-backs held to a minimum.
“The commitment we made to teams is that we would do everything in our power to avoid the group play games being the second night of back-to-backs, it will likely be impossible to avoid some of them being the first night of back-to-backs,” Wasch said. “It is probably infeasible for us to deliver a schedule where they’re not the first or second night of [any] back-to-backs. So the commitment we hope to achieve at this point is to avoid second nights of back-to-backs.”
The winner of each group will advance to the knockout round, along with the highest-finishing team that didn’t win a group in each conference. Those teams will then play quarterfinal games on Dec. 4 and Dec. 5 at the higher-seeded teams, with the four teams that win those games advancing to the semifinals on Dec. 7 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, followed by the championship game on Dec. 9.
“Everybody’s not going to buy in right away,” said Joe Dumars, the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball operations. “So that can’t be the goal that everybody’s going to buy in from day one.