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Adam Silver has doubled down on the possibility of the NBA adding a midseason tournament to its schedule in the future.
“It may be that even if guys were playing all 82 games, it’s not the optimal way to present it from a fan standpoint,” the league’s commissioner said at his press conference following the league’s annual end-of-season meeting of its Board of Governors. “I think we always have to step back and remind ourselves that at the end of the day this is about the fan, especially as the media landscape is changing and the bundle of pay television is changing, and we may move into a world where we have to win that support of the viewer every night.
“To your point, it may be the case that if you’re not going to play, you don’t get paid. None of us do. It’s not just about the players.”
Silver is clearly not satisfied with the All-Star Game, telling The Ringer’s Bill Simmons the draft format implemented for the game last season “didn’t work” at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston in March, going to far to calls the changes, “Putting an earring on a pig.”
Perhaps another event would be better suited for the NBA, Silver said.
“That’s why I’m particularly interested in looking at different kinds of formats — at midseason tournaments, for example, play-in tournaments — because even accepting that players have so many miles on their bodies, there may be better ways to present it,” he said. “Assuming guys are going to play 82 games, maybe there should be a certain number of games in the regular season and then there should be two tournaments throughout the season.”
Silver is aware there is much work to be done in terms of convincing the NBA landscape and its fans to warm to the concept.
“I know for most of the American viewers, that’s a very foreign concept because we’re not used to having multiple goals throughout the season,” Silver said. “But as I said, it’s very commonplace in international soccer. It would take a while to develop those new traditions because I think initially the reaction may be who cares who wins the midseason tournament; it’s all about the Larry O’Brien Trophy. So we need to take a long-term perspective on these things.
“As I said, we and the players have a common interest in maximizing viewership and maximizing interest. The format we have in place now — I’m a traditionalist on one hand, but on the other hand it’s 50 years old or so, presenting an 82-game season, and there’s nothing magical about it. I think it’s on the league office to always be challenging the way we do things — to be paying attention to changing viewer habits, a changing marketplace, a new world of the way media is presented, often on smaller devices, less on screens, people having shorter attention spans — and saying, ‘This is an incredible game, it’s never been more exciting, the athleticism has never been greater, fantastic players coming from all around the world, but what’s the best way to put the season together?’
“When you say we’re at that point now, I’d only say that I think these kind of changes can’t be done without enormous deliberation. Part of it is just the formality that they need to be negotiated with the players’ association, but even if the players’ association came to us and said, “You guys know best, what is it you want,” I wouldn’t know how to answer it. I think it’s going to require a lot more research, a lot more thoughtfulness on behalf of the teams, players and the league working together.”