Mark Tatum Rumors
It sounds like a broken record, but it feels even more true today: A midseason tournament seems more likely than ever. “We are making progress,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum told Yahoo Sports last week. “All of those discussions are positive. There’s a lot of stakeholders, logistics that would have to be taken care of, but I feel we are taking all the right steps, all the right feedback.”
Tatum added, perhaps most poignantly, that there’s “a lot of momentum” toward adding a midseason tournament — which would likely occur before Christmas, the current unofficial start to the NBA season. The logistics Tatum is referring to — shortening the season from 82 games, getting it agreed to with the players’ union — hasn’t been determined. But it has been a frequent enough topic on the calls general managers are having with the league office. “There are a few old-school types who might fight against it, but it feels like it’ll be in place by the next TV deal,” a general manager told Yahoo Sports.
Having some level of midseason tournament is a carrot the league will hold up in its current TV negotiations. The existing deal expires after the 2023-24 season, with the traditional rights holders and streaming networks all expected to make bids on carrying coverage into that next wave. Like most recent seasons, NBA headliners have missed chunks of games due to injury and injury management. It’s become more in focus in recent years, and adding a midseason tournament to it feels a bit counterintuitive to the goals of both making the regular season feel eventful and having the marquee players on the floor as much as possible.
Tatum doesn’t believe the ideals conflict. “One of the reasons that we want to create the in-season tournament is for the fans, for the players, so creating more opportunities for players to compete in the middle of a season to win something,” he said. “And in addition to the Larry O’Brien Trophy, our players, they want to compete, they want to win. I mean, they grew up competing, and they grew up playing, you know, for the love of the game and to be the best in the highest level.”
Since the 1980s, the NBA has become synonymous with Christmas Day, similar to the NFL with Thanksgiving or college football with New Year’s Day. The five-game celebration is a global media event, reaching more than 41 million people in more than 50 languages across 200 countries and territories last year. “I think our fans are conditioned and, quite frankly, look forward to the games on Christmas Day because they tend to be the biggest, most anticipated matchups of the season,” NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum told Front Office Sports.
The candor reinforced something Tatum had realized himself while he was in his funk. It had taken everything he had to get to the Finals. It would take all that and more to get back. “My mindset was different after [the Finals],” he says. “I know what it takes now. I know what it feels like. They let me get there, and now I know what more I got to do.”
With the NBA staging what has become an annual game in Mexico City, expansion has been a popular topic of conversation. A day or so after Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum talked about the possibility of adding new teams, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took his turn. After years of saying expansion was a non-discussion for the NBA, Silver has said it’s something the league is starting to look into. However, Silver cautioned putting a timeline on it. “We want to get a new collective bargaining agreement, our media rights deals are up soon, so we need to renew those, as well, but then we will turn to expansion,” Silver said.