As commissioner Adam Silver continues his march to get out of David Stern’s considerable shadow, one comment he made while at the NBA’s Summer League, which is held in Las Vegas, has intrigued the hearts and minds of people who are interested in watching more basketball than they are currently able to. Silver floated the idea of a midseason tournament, “similar to soccer,” to at least one journalist, although the phrase doesn’t mean a whole lot on the face of it. Here’s a breakdown of what Silver could be talking about, how it could be implemented, and what the National Basketball Association could do to make it, you know, appealing to people who won’t stay up until all hours watching Summer League.
First and foremost, we assume that Silver is comparing this tournament to soccer insofar as soccer has both national championships, which determines the tiers within leagues via promotion and demotion, and national cups, which are open to each tier within a league and are largely single-game knockout affairs — like March Madness or the World Cup. The key difference? Championships don’t usually have playoffs, and cups do. How could this translate to the NBA, and would it be fundamentally different from the FIBA World Championships?
In order for it to work, the league would need to include something that wouldn’t be seen in the normal playoffs — if the NBA is stealing wholesale from soccer, the tournament would have to feature D-League or international teams. Another option: Grantland’s editor-in-chief, Bill Simmons, has long been a proponent of what he calls the Entertaining-as-Hell Tournament, in which each of the lottery teams plays a single elimination tournament for the eighth seed in each conference. Implementing that would be one way to handle a midseason tournament in a way that would ensure people watched.