NBA Rumor: Play-In Tournament

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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.”

Mark Cuban on play-in tournament: 'An enormous mistake'

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.

“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.”

Luka Doncic not a fan of the play-in tournament

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.”

Draymond Green on fighting for play-in spot: 'It doesn't motivate me'

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.”

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).

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.
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Nate McMillan has reservations about coaching Hawks next season?

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The 24-year-old is just fearless, and it’s that kind of bravado that has everything to do with the Suns taking these two games without Chris Paul while he continues to go through COVID protocol. Beverley bothered him defensively, but Booker never backed down. I asked him afterward if their back-and-forth was good, old-fashioned playoff basketball, or if perhaps Beverley and the Clippers were going too far with the physicality. “That’s for you guys to decide,” he said. “They’re an aggressive team. That’s how they guard. All those guys, they’re athletic. Watching the previous series against Dallas and Utah, (they’re) switching everything and trying to turn teams over. But we’re figuring it out and we try to stay aggressive, stay with what we do and whether it’s basketball plays or not, we’ve got to move on to the next one.”
“CP has taken Cam Payne under his wing,” he said. “When you see Cam Payne coming into practice with Chris Paul, you’re wondering, you know — Chris Paul is usually the one here early and you see Cam Payne right behind him and you tend to ask questions, them two been together watching film, lifting weights together stuff like that. You could tell that Cam really took a different approach to a whole other level and he did it right in front of our eyes. Like I said, he was bound to have one of these games and he’s a guy who keeps it consistent. He plays hard both ends of the ball, and I just love his passion.”
“We want everybody to cherish this moment because we are built for this,” Antetokounmpo said. “That’s why we are here. No matter the pressure, no matter what’s going on, we are built for this. We believe in who we are. No matter what happens, win or lose, we’ll stay together and we’re just going to go out there and compete.” Antetokounmpo delivered for the Bucks in the series finale against the Nets with 40 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. For the series, he averaged 28.8 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists.
Against Brooklyn, Antetokounmpo averaged 40.1 minutes per game, the most he has averaged in any series and by far the most he has averaged since Budenholzer became coach in 2018. Antetokounmpo played 50 of 53 minutes in Game 7. “I’ve prepared my body all year for moments like that, being able to play 40 minutes, 42, 45, 48, whatever it may be, 53,” he said. “(Budenholzer) knows the way I am. If I get tired I’m going to let him know. If I get tired and I need a 30-second break or a minute-break, usually we have a great way to communicate about that – that he can pull me out and put me right back.”
Two people who have played important roles behind the scenes for the Hawks are Larry Riley and Mike McNeive. Riley, once an assistant coach and scout for the Bucks, is a senior advisor to Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk. Before joining the Hawks, Riley played a major role in the enormous success of the Golden State Warriors as be drafted Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson while being the team’s general manager. McNeive, who worked as an advance scout and assistant coach for the Bucks during the George Karl regime, is the Hawks director of basketball operations.
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Nets upset with Kyrie Irving?

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