There are 82 games in a team's NBA season, but keeping fans' attention for every contest has been a growing challenge for the league. Making matters worse, teams have adopted "load management" practices to rest star players periodically during the season.
While the NBA has addressed load management concerns by threatening to fine teams for resting multiple stars on the same night, the league is also looking to drum up attention early in the regular season. That's where the league's new in-season tournament comes into play.
Starting Friday, each team will play four games that count toward their regular season and in-season tournament standings. Eight of the 30 teams will then advance to a single elimination tournament.
The quarterfinals and semifinals will also count toward a team's regular season standings.
Only the two championship teams will play in a game that won't count toward regular season standings. Those two teams will play for the NBA Cup and a large cash prize.
"It is a concept we took from international sports, and our international players know the concept well," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said on "NBA on TNT." "There has been a tradition to win a championship, in our case, the Larry O'Brien Trophy, there is a long history of other competitions. College does it here, Thanksgiving tournaments."
Silver said the idea has been tossed around for several years, and support from players was "nearly universal" by the time the league and players came to an agreement.
"There is a recognition of the players that we need to keep interest among our fans," Silver said. "We have a long regular season. We're competing against the NFL, college football, all these other interests people are following. So let's create some interest in our league."
To give the in-season tournament games a different feel, all 30 teams will play on specially designed courts for their home games. These courts will include a logo of the NBA Cup at center court, placed behind the home team's logo. The courts will have a contrasting wash of color from lane to lane, creating a 16-foot-wide “runway” across the court, the NBA said.
"The unified look represents the first time that the league has implemented an alternate court for all 30 teams and the first time that any NBA team has played on a fully painted court with no woodgrain details. This will also mark the first time that the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans and Portland Trail Blazers will play on an alternate court in the history of the franchises," the NBA said.
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