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It’s well-known that the NBA’s new in-season tournament is a pet project of commissioner Adam Silver.
That said, the idea even predates Silver taking over for David Stern. Silver revealed Saturday that the concept has been “rumbling around” NBA circles for the last 15 years.
“This is a concept that has been rumbling around the league office for around 15 years,” Silver said on an episode of NBA Today that coincided with the official introduction of the event. “We thought what a perfect opportunity for a global league like the NBA, and it’s a perfect fit for our game.
“New traditions take time. But, all throughout sports, we are seeing new innovations, and now is the time for this NBA in-season tournament.”
The league broke down the format of the NBA Cup, which launches next season as part of the league’s new collective bargaining agreement, over the weekend. It will follow similar structure to regular-season tournaments in European soccer leagues.
NBA Cup Tournament Structure
- Teams are broken down into six five-team groups—three from the Eastern Conference, and three from the Western Conference. Teams were grouped based on their 2022-23 regular season record and then drawn randomly, similar to the World Cup.
- Teams will play one game apiece against their fellow group members, with two coming at home and two on the road.
- The six group winners and two best-performing non-group winners (one from each conference) advance to a single-elimination tournament to determine the winner.
- Teams will remain split by Eastern and Western Conferences until the finals, which will be played (along with the semifinals) in Las Vegas.
Silver previously said the in-season tournament will feature different uniforms and courts to differentiate it from standard regular-season play.
“The players will be wearing different uniforms,” Silver said in April. “Maybe the court will look different. You’ll know that it’s not just a regular-season game.”
The NBA has increasingly looked for ways to incentivize competitive play in the regular season, starting with the advent of the play-in tournament and now continuing with the NBA Cup. While it will be nearly impossible to force all 30 teams to remain competitive across a full 82-game schedule, Silver’s inventive ideas bring added intrigue and will likely remain staples moving forward.