Ben Cafardo: ESPN continues it’s @NBA audience success as Friday’s Play-In game – #Grizzlies defeated the #Warriors – averaged 3,633,000 viewers (Nielsen) ESPN’s 2nd-most watched NBA game of the season so far and won the night across all of television in prime time and in all key demos
NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Friday said his personal preference is for the play-in tournament to continue after this season, and that it was a success because of the incentive it gave teams to care until the end of the regular season. "I haven't made any secret that I want it to be [around long term]," Silver told Keyshawn, J-Will and Zubin on ESPN Radio. "I have two constituencies I need to convince of that. One is the 30 teams, and I think for the most part they've supported it. Again, I understand the sentiment if I were a team -- a 7-seed in particular -- the notion [that] after a long season, you could potentially play out of the playoffs. I understand those feelings. I think at the same time, the teams recognize the amount of additional interest we've created over the last month of the season plus those play-in games make it worth it.
"Of course, the other constituency is the players. For example, one player, who is on the executive committee of the union, said to me yesterday that he really likes the play-in tournament but he felt it could potentially be a bit unfair. For example, if you were the seventh seed and you were a significant number of games ahead of the 8-seed, the notion that you could somehow lose two games and be out of the playoffs seems unfair."
While the regular season was shorter, Silver said it was the incentive structures that the play-in tournament provided that made it a compelling way to play out the final weeks of the regular season. "Over the past few years, pre-pandemic, there's been a lot of reference to our long regular season and the issues around player resting, and we tried to address that as well," Silver said. "We moved to a 72-game season because of the pandemic and somewhat condensed so we had 10 fewer regular-season games, and I had hardly heard a mention about it. ... I think the way we dealt best with the resting, although we have some rules around it now, was the motivation for teams to care about being in the playoffs and their actual play-in position. "That incentive is what made the biggest difference, not the reduction of the 10 games."
Out of the 30 NBA teams, 24 had a chance to earn a spot in at least the play-in tournament over the final two weeks of the regular season. "I'm going to wait only because I know there's people on both sides of it," Silver said. "... Beyond the individual ratings, and some games have been pretty good and some haven't been as close, but putting aside those games and adding those games to our schedule and the amount of interest in them is where I think the play-in tournament had an impact. [It] was causing teams who frankly otherwise may have thrown in the towel some number of weeks back to fight for those last playoff spots."
Michele Roberts: With respect to the play-in, frankly, that was something we could we could and we did negotiate. Players that were complaining? They had every right to complain—especially if you were a seven or an eight seed. No play-in and you would be relaxing right now, I get it. But there were teams that had a chance to be able to make it that felt differently. The only thing I'm concerned about is when we do have a voice in making decisions, those decisions are made by the governing body not Michele Roberts. Everything is run past the players and there is a direction that's provided to the union. Will everybody in the union agree with it? Of course not. That's okay. We're not a monolith. Q: There were definitely some players who wouldn’t have complained if they were the fifth seed. Michele Roberts: That's probably true. The players that complain about it are largely players in it. They’re saying If not for this nonsense I'd be at home enjoying a glass of wine. But I have no problem with that level of discontent, because it's genuine.
As if the competitive component weren't enough to support it going forward, the play-in tournament also provides the league with a valuable product that offers novelty and appeal in the NBA's next negotiation with broadcast partners. That might not translate to life-changing money for the NBA, but that revenue combined with some exciting midweek visibility featuring stars such as LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Jayson Tatum, LaMelo Ball and Ja Morant makes for an appealing promotional opportunity that pays for itself. James might not be a fan, but league sources say the play-in is likely here to stay.
Kendra Andrews: Steve Kerr: "This is a bitter pill to swallow. This was our game and we couldn't get it done." Says the game was lost in the third quarter.
Mark Medina: The Lakers escape with a 103-100 win over the Warriors, & the purple confetti is dropping at Staples Center. Lakers have the 7th seed and face the second-seeded Phoenix Suns in the first round. The Warriors face the Grizzlies on Friday for the final playoff spot.
Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas positioned himself to go up for the opening tipoff with his right hand then slyly used his left hand – while hooking Spurs center Jonas Valanciunas with his right hand – to bat the ball to Memphis’ side. The Grizzlies were a step ahead of San Antonio nearly all night, winning the 9-10 play-in game 100-96 Wednesday at home. Memphis will travel to face the loser of Lakers-Warriors on Friday to determine the No. 8 seed. The Grizzlies are gaining major experience in these single-elimination play-in games, having lost to the Trail Blazers last year.
When Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James said the person who created the play-in game should be fired, Evan Wasch’s phone began lighting up with calls and texts. Wasch is the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball strategy and analytics. He recently told Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes that he is not the play-in game inventor. It is an idea that predates his time at the NBA, and several people contributed to the idea. He is more like the curator of the play-in format, and despite James’ wishes, Wasch – or anyone else – won’t be fired. At least not for the play-in game idea.
Scott Agness: Pacers pummel the Hornets 144-117 to advance to a second play-in game, at loser of Celtics/Wizards. +16 after 1 +24 at half. Never trailed, once led by 39. Eight in double figures. Brissett scored a game-high 23pts. Sabonis had 14-21-9 Brogdon returned, scored 16 in 21mins.
But did you know that another tournament-style event could be added to the NBA schedule? According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, league executives could opt to add a mid-season tournament once things settle back down to normal. "I think the play-in tournament is gonna be there in the future. And I think you're gonna hear more conversation moving forward about a mid-season tournament. But I think that's once we get out of this shortened season and get back to a normal 82-game schedule that's on a regular NBA calendar."
The Memphis Grizzlies will have more fans in attendance at FedEx Forum for the Western Conference play-in game after it was announced Monday it will increase to approximate 40% capacity. Attendance has been at roughly 20% capacity since March 10 when the Grizzlies returned from All-Star break. The Grizzlies will face the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday (6:30 p.m., ESPN) in front of close to 7,000 fans as opposed to 3,500.
"There's been a lot going on for a couple of weeks now and trying to figure out what the right, safe but increased capacity would be," Grizzlies president Jason Wexler said. "Ultimately we got to the 40% level by creating a distancing environment that was three feet in every direction as opposed to six feet."
Jared Weiss: Stevens says he is approaching this play-in like a Thursday-Sunday NCAA tournament schedule. "The Thursday game, you're more prepared for than the Saturday game...The one day turnaround in a situation like this is how can we get what we get?"
Eric Walden: Rudy Gobert, on the play-in tournament: "Those games are gonna be fun to watch. I’m excited to watch those games. And whoever we face, it’s gonna be a long journey, and we’re gonna be ready."
Meghan Triplett: "I don't look for extra motivation....I'm motivated enough!..." -Jonas Valanciunas on taking on the Spurs in the Play-In after missing the last two matchups against them earlier in the season
Melissa Rohlin: Steve Kerr on the potential that the Lakers and Warriors will meet in the play-in, setting up a head to head contest bw Steph Curry & LeBron James:"You're talking about two of the greatest players of all-time... Of course, four meetings in The Finals is going to create a rivalry."
Nick Friedell: It's over. The Warriors are the eighth seed in the West thanks to a 113-101 win over the Grizzlies. Steph finishes with 46 points. The Warriors will play either the Lakers or the Blazers on the road on Wednesday night in the 7/8 game.
Tom Orsborn: DeMar says Wednesday at Memphis will be the "epitome of win or go home." His advice to the young guys? "Understanding it’s no, ‘My bads.’ No mistakes. You’ve got to be close to perfect to pull out a victory. It’s definitely going to be the definition of a dog fight."
Fred Katz: Scott Brooks, who has previously professed his love for the play-in tournament, says he’s changed his mind now that the Wizards have finished in eighth place: “I’m with the King,” he said. "Who created this play-in thing? Whoever did that, they need to be fired."
Chris Forsberg: Wizards top Hornets. So it’s set: (7) Celtics vs. (8) Wizards, Tuesday night, in play-in opener. Winner is the 7th seed in East; loser plays the 9/10 winner on Thursday to be 8th seed.
Tony East: Pacers win 125-113. Brissett, McDermott, and Sabonis were all tremendous in this final regular season game. Pacers finish 9th in the East and will host the loser of Charlotte and Washington on Tuesday.
As his Golden State Warriors prepare for Sunday's all-important, regular-season finale against the Memphis Grizzlies, Warriors coach Steve Kerr wants his team to have a clear mindset about exactly how much is at stake. With a win, the Warriors will finish the regular season with a 39-33 record, a game ahead of the Grizzlies for the eighth spot in the Western Conference -- allowing for an easier path into postseason play. "We're really looking at this [as] we've got to win two out of our next three games," Kerr said after Saturday's practice. "So basically that starts tomorrow; so, in effect tomorrow is a playoff game. And we've got to win two before we lose two. That's what it comes down to out of the next three. Like a little miniseries from the old days in the early '80s."
Ian Begley: The Knicks can clinch the No. 4 seed and a first-round matchup with the Hawks if they beat Boston tomorrow afternoon. If New York loses to Boston tomorrow and the Hawks and Heat win their games on Sunday night, the Knicks would finish 6th in the East.
Nick Friedell: Steph said he understands the conversation on both sides of the play-in tournament debate: "It will be interesting to see if it lasts beyond this year when we get back to an 82-game schedule. I don't think it will, but this year it is what it is ..."
Mark Medina: LeBron James on the Lakers either being a sixth seed or being in the play-in tournament : "Let the chips fall where they may be. We'll be ready to go."
Tom Orsborn: Drew Eubanks on Wednesday's play-in game: "I look forward to the challenge, winner take all. We’ve got no pressure going into it. I feel like anyone we play has more to lose than we do, and we have guys resting, so they will be fully charged, ready to go on Wednesday.
Tim Bontemps: With Charlotte and Indiana losing this afternoon, things tomorrow are pretty simple at the bottom of the Eastern Conference: the winner of Charlotte-Washington finishes eighth; if Indiana wins at Toronto it finishes ninth; if it loses, it finishes 10th. East play-ins are Tuesday.
Mike Trudell: Clippers just assured that they can’t face the Lakers in Round 1. If they lose their final game (at OKC), they are the 4. If they win and DEN loses at POR, LAC are the 3, and LAL are in the play-in going for No. 7 w/POR the 6 at worst. If DEN wins at POR, DEN is the 3.
JD Shaw: Here is the schedule for the 2021 NBA Play-In Tournament. Times are still TBD: pic.twitter.com/iYzoodatHJ
There were game cancellations and stars lost and empty arenas, but the NBA made it to the 2021 playoffs without a bubble. Silver delivered something of a pep talk and challenge to his top basketball executives recently, sources said, declaring ahead of the experimental play-in tournament: "We are in a transformational period," and reminding all, "We have to earn viewers."
Fred Katz: Wizards owner Ted Leonsis says he is an “unabashed fan” of the NBA’s. play-in tournament.
“It does us no good to hold on to this game and go out there and not be locked in for the next one,” Lillard said. “We have to move on and make sure we handle our business at home. … I think the position we are in, it makes it pretty easy for us, because that (Denver) game becomes more important than this (Phoenix) game now. We have a few days in between, so we can go home and relax and just move past it. I wish we were playing (Friday) so we can just go ahead and get it over with. But like I said, with this loss, the game on Sunday becomes our most important game of the season.”
“It’s crucial,” McCollum said Thursday, referencing avoiding the play-in. “Being able to get some rest is extremely important. You don’t want to limp into the postseason. We played in the play-in game in the past and had a short turnaround, and that led to a lot of fatigue, and then we ended up having some injuries in the playoffs. So I would love to be able to work on my game a couple days and not have to play in an actual game. Be able to practice some stuff. And I’m sure the coaches would like to go over some stuff as opposed to preparing for a game every day. I think the teams that are able to get a break are happy about it and will use that to their advantage.”
Anthony Slater: It’s official: Warriors-Grizzlies on Sunday in SF will be for the #8 seed. Winner gets it, loser falls to #9 and the worse side of the play-in. Tomorrow’s games carry zero importance.
Duane Rankin: Frank Vogel said although it "looks unlikely" that #Lakers will reach top six to avoid play-in tournament, but is looking to give themselves "a chance" to do it. Losing to #Suns tonight certainly won't help their cause. Talon Horton-Tucker (calf) game-time decision.
Bill Oram: Frank Vogel said: "I'm unafraid of the play-in tournament with this team, I feel that we can beat anybody." BUT he says the Lakers still want to finish in the top-6. Too many variables otherwise. Says any silver lining of getting extra games in play-in is "minimal."
Tim Reynolds: The Blazers-Lakers loser tonight not only will be in 7th in the West, a game behind the winner, but will have lost the head-to-head tiebreaker. So in essence, tonight's loser will be two games behind the other with five games left. Seems like a big game.
If this sounds familiar, it is. The play-in tournament's value became a full-fledged storyline in April when Luka Doncic and Mark Cuban griped about the new circumstances for 7-seeds in each conference. And there is indeed a shared sentiment among coaches and team executives contacted by Bleacher Report that a play-in structure where just the 8-seed battles the winner of the 9- and 10-seeds would be preferred to this current format—specifically the fact that 7-seeds will start the tournament by playing the 8-seed for their own rightful spot after 72 games. "What if the 7-seed has a four-game lead on 8? And now it's gonna almost be like Game 7 of the Finals, win or go home? It's not really fair," said one Eastern Conference executive. "Anything can happen. And someone can get hurt."
Duane Rankin: "So maybe they can figure out a way, if you're in the play-in tournament, and it's just kind of goofy, but it's the way my head works. If you make it into the playoffs, you start down a game or something like that." Monty Williams' play-in idea that'd reward 1-2 seeds. #Suns pic.twitter.com/3cbiXy5EYU
Dave McMenamin: LeBron James on the play-in tournament: "Whoever came up with that s--- needs to be fired"
Fred Katz: Scott Brooks says he loves the play-in tournament. Says he thinks it’s made the league more competitive and has helped with tanking: “Even if we weren’t in this position and we were at the fifth or sixth spot, I think you should try to make it as competitive as you can."
Connor Letourneau: Steve Kerr on the play-in-tournament implications of tonight's game against the Mavericks: "If we were to win tonight, I think we'd have a realistic shot at catching Dallas because we'd have the tie-breaker."
The future of the play-in tournament, which was adopted on a one-year trial basis, is a huge key. But given the impact it’s already made, league sources expect easy approval to make it permanent. “Based on what we’ve seen in terms of team behavior the last few years—the competitiveness on the court and the competitiveness in the standings—we’re pleased with the early results of both the lottery change and the play-in tournament,” said Wasch.
According to Wasch, the biggest gap a team has overcome to make the playoffs, with 15 games left in a season, is four games. (It’s happened twice.) So the league is using that four-game gap as the gauge for “still in contention.” And when the league hit the 15-game mark last week, 24 teams were either firmly in the playoff field or, at worst, within four games of 10th place. Yes, league officials looked it up. And yes, they’re quite pleased with that stat—and with the rules changes that fostered it.
Melissa Rohlin: Coach Doc Rivers on the play-in format: "I love it," he said. "...I think it keeps more teams involved. I think it's a good change.
"I thought it was funny that Mark Cuban, who I absolutely love, pushed it," New Orleans Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Not only did he vote for it, but he pushed it. And now that they’re sitting where they are, they don’t like it."
His parting shot shot at Cuban aside, Van Gundy preached the importance of adapting to the circumstances than worrying about the pros and cons of the play-in tournament format. “It doesn’t matter what I think,” Van Gundy said. “We’re trying to get in it. So what my own personal thing is on what they should or should not have done with that doesn’t even matter. I don’t think about it. We’re trying to get in it. So that’s what is important to me."
Or take the eight, nine and 10 seeds – Memphis, Golden State and San Antonio. The eight seed just has to win one play-in game and the ninth and 10th seeds has to win twice. It’s easy to see why those teams would rather end up in seventh or eighth place. “For us, it’s awesome,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “For the league, it creates a lot of excitement and competition. I know they’re studying that and they’ll figure out how that makes sense moving forward. But hopefully we give ourselves a great chance in the last 20 games to keep getting better and make a push for the playoffs.”
Josh Lewenberg: VanVleet on the play-in: "If we're not in it then it's stupid & it was a bad decision... But if somehow we make the play-in then obviously that type of mentality is not gonna work for you. I see both sides of it... I hope they make all the money they were looking to make off it"
So Steph Curry -- what do you think about the play-in format? "I like the opportunity that's in front of us," the two-time NBA MVP told ESPN's Rachel Nichols. "We have an opportunity to make this season mean something down the stretch because of the play-in. The opportunity of peaking at the right time. I'm sure there are gonna be a lot of opinions on it, and we'll see how it plays out. But I'm with it."
Mark Medina: Rick Carlisle on Luka Doncic criticizing the play-in tournament & Mark Cuban expressing concerns about it to @Tim MacMahon:"Luka & Mark hade made strong statement about it. I don't see a need for a third." Carlisle added If we end up in the play-in, we'll embrace that challenge"
Joe Vardon: Condensed schedules and workloads are not things about which Tom Thibodeau would complain, but he said the NBA play-in format, so far, is good. 'I think a lot of teams being involved in important games, I think that’s good for the league.' @The Athletic
Anthony Slater: Draymond Green asked how much he's monitoring the play-in standings: "I saw that Luka don't like it, I saw that Mark Cuban don't like it. That's as much as I pay attention to the play-in standings."
Hours after Luka Doncic criticized the idea of the NBA's play-in tournament, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told ESPN that the concept is "an enormous mistake," especially due to this season's compressed schedule. "I get why the NBA is doing it," Cuban said in a series of messages to ESPN. "But if we are going to be creative because of COVID, we should go straight up 1-20 and let the bottom 4 play in. This is the year particularly to do it since the 10 games cut [from the normal 82-game schedule] were in conference.
"The worst part of this approach is that it doubles the stress of the compressed schedule. Rather than playing for a playoff spot and being able to rest players as the standings become clearer, teams have to approach every game as a playoff game to either get into or stay in the top 6 since the consequences, as Luka said, are enormous. So players are playing more games and more minutes in fewer days."
"In a regular season of 82 games where we aren't playing 30-plus games in 6 weeks, then it might have been OK," Cuban told ESPN. "But the compression of so many games into so few days makes this an enormous mistake. "If we had gone 1 to 16, with the top 12 in, it still would have been rough, but there would have been more separation between play-in and the top 12. This is a season where we have to rest high-usage players. We have no choice. And that can and will have consequences."
Count Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic among the critics of the NBA's play-in tournament concept. "I don't understand the idea of a play-in," Doncic said Monday after a 113-95 loss to the visiting Philadelphia 76ers, the Mavs' third defeat in four games. "You play 72 games to get into the playoffs, then maybe you lose two in a row and you're out of the playoffs. So I don't see the point of that."
Eddie Sefko: Great pregame quote by Gregg Popovich about the play-in games. "I give it no thought whatsoever at my age, because I have to pick and choose how I want to spend my thinking moments. And it wouldn’t matter what I think.”
Connor Letourneau: Steve Kerr on Draymond Green's comments about not being motivated to play in a play-in game: "Well, it motivates me. ... I understand what Draymond is saying. After so many years of being a championship contender, it is tough to just be playing to make the play-in tournament."
The Jump: Draymond: "Fighting for play-in doesn't motivate me" #NBA #NBATwitter #TheJump #DubNation pic.twitter.com/sCFUH5hjvk
The Jump: Approach to new play-in scenario? "It's definitely different. We still want to get there because if you can be in that top 8, it gives you a better chance to get into the playoffs" - @De'Aaron Fox #NBA #NBATwitter #TheJump #SacramentoProud
Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green says that he is not motivated by the NBA's new play-in games, despite the fact that his team currently sits in 9th place in the Western Conference -- squarely on the fringe of the league's reformatted playoff system. "To be honest with you, I don't go into these games thinking like, 'Man, we need to win these games to get to the playoffs,'" Green said after Thursday's 116-109 loss to the Miami Heat. "I hate f---ing losing, so when I step on the floor I want to win. But I'll be 100 percent honest with you, fighting for a play-in spot does not motivate me. We're in what, [9th]? Fighting for a [play-in] spot doesn't motivate me at all."
Green, who has won three NBA championships during his nine-year career with the Warriors, added that the idea of squeezing into the postseason isn't going to motivate him any more than not wanting to lose already does. "I want to win every game I play because I hate losing," he said. "That s--- really bothers me. So that's what motivates me, not fighting for some play-in spot."
Anthony Slater: Steph Curry: "I know for me and Draymond, we've tried to be conscious of the development but also the understanding we have a lot of growing to do and our leadership has to be consistent in that respect. Nobody has time to sulk. Just go out and hoop." pic.twitter.com/GrS1cCoEUK
The game schedules across TNT and ESPN for the final week of the regular season (May 10-16) will be determined at a later date in order to provide the most compelling matchups to a national audience leading into the NBA Play-In Tournament and the NBA Playoffs. In the final week of the regular season, TNT will present doubleheaders Tuesday, May 11 and Thursday, May 13, and ESPN will televise doubleheaders Wednesday, May 12 and Friday, May 14. ESPN will also air a game Sunday, May 16 on the final day of the regular season. TNT will tip off its coverage of the Second Half of the season Thursday, March 11 with a doubleheader as the Brooklyn Nets host the Boston Celtics (7:30 p.m. ET) and the Golden State Warriors visit the LA Clippers (10 p.m. ET). ESPN will begin its Second Half coverage Sunday, March 14 when the New Orleans Pelicans host the Clippers (9 p.m. ET). On Monday, March 15, ESPN’s first doubleheader in the Second Half will feature the New York Knicks visiting the Nets (8 p.m. ET) and the Lakers taking on the Warriors in San Francisco (10:30 p.m. ET).
Adrian Wojnarowski: The Play-in Tournament still needs to be approved by the Board of Governors, but that is a formality, per sources: No. 7 and No. 8 seeds need to win once to stay in playoffs; No. 9 and No. 10 seeds need to win twice to move up into field. Tentative dates of event: May 17-21.
NBA and NBPA talks continue to include the likelihood of a play-in tournament for both the Eastern and Western Conference playoffs, a mechanism designed to incentivize more teams to aggressively pursue the late season competitively -- and an avenue for the league, players and television partners to create more lucrative revenue streams, sources said.
The play-in tournament proposal has coalesced around the structure ESPN first reported was gaining traction in early 2018: a four-team tournament among the Nos. 7, 8, 9 and 10 seeds for the final two playoff spots in each conference. The tournament would begin with No. 7 hosting No. 8, and the winner locking into the No. 7 spot. Meanwhile, No. 9 would face No. 10, with the winner advancing to play the loser of the 7-versus-8 matchup for the No. 8 seed, sources have told ESPN.
To date, the league's 7-10 proposal has not been tweaked to include any standings trigger, sources told ESPN. The play-in tournament is meant to be a money-generating media property. Reducing the number of teams from four to three would reduce the number of games, and thus the overall revenue generated by the tournament, sources said.
May 19, 2022 | 7:13 pm EDT Update
Tim Bontemps: Erik Spoelstra: “We don’t want to duck any competition.” Said he and the Heat are happy that Marcus Smart and Al Horford are both available again for Boston. Said you never want to see a series like this determined by injury or testing.
May 19, 2022 | 6:51 pm EDT Update
Chris Haynes: Boston Celtics center Al Horford tested negative yesterday and twice today, clearing him to play in Game 2 tonight against Miami Heat, league sources tell @YahooSports, @NBAonTNT.