NBA Rumor: Play-In Tournament

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Jeanie Buss not a fan of Play-In tournament

Why she doesn’t like the Play-In playoff format: Jeanie Buss: “I obviously see the excitement of it. If we would have lost two games, we wouldn’t have been in the playoffs at all. And that’s, that’s a tough pill to swallow. When you’ve been in the top eight for the entire season. You never dropped out of the playoff position. But yet, you know, you can lose two games, and that’s what happened to Golden State, they were at the eighth spot, and then they ended up losing to us and then to Memphis and they didn’t make it in the playoffs. I could see where it’s kind of fun for one game, but I don’t want to diminish what happens in the regular season. They like to say that it combats tanking and I think tanking would be best served by losing draft picks, something that hurts the basketball department as opposed to a financial punishment, right? Because the general manager’s job is based on wins and losses. The general manager’s job isn’t based on how many season tickets you sell, or how many sponsors.”

Play-In Tournament officially back for the 2021-22 season

The NBA Board of Governors today approved a proposal to continue the Play-In Tournament for the 2021-22 season. The Play-In Tournament for the 2021-22 season, which was also agreed to by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), will follow the same format as the Play-In Tournament for the 2020-21 season. The teams that finish the regular season with the seventh-highest through the 10th-highest winning percentages in each conference will compete to fill the seventh and eighth playoff seeds in each conference.

Below are some key dates for the 2021-22 season. • Aug. 2: Teams can begin negotiating with free agents (6 p.m. ET) • Aug. 6: Teams can begin signing free agents (12:01 p.m. ET) • Aug. 8-17: MGM Resorts NBA Summer League in Las Vegas • Sept. 28, 2021: Training camp begins • Oct. 19, 2021: Regular season begins • April 10, 2022: Regular season concludes • April 12-15, 2022: Play-In Tournament • April 16, 2022: Playoffs begin • June 2, 2022: NBA Finals begin • June 19, 2022: Game 7 of NBA Finals (if necessary) • June 23, 2022: NBA Draft

Two, Silver said the NBA will continue some version of a play-in tournament. “Overall, it was very positive for the league and the players,” Silver said. “Certainly there’d been some suggestions about some tweaks we should consider, but again, I think once we bring it back to our owners for a vote and the Players Association meets and has an opportunity to consider it, it’s my expectation that it will continue for next season.”

Adam Silver wants play-in tournament to be long-term

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.

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.

Play-in games here to stay?

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.

Grizzlies to play for a 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.

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.”

Grizzlies raise attendance capacity for Play-in game

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.

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.”

“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.”

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.”

Play-in tournament to become permanent?

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.

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.”
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