NBA Mulls Mid-Season Cup, Postseason Play-In Games, Shorter Season

by June 26, 2019
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Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors

The NBA has begun brainstorming ideas to mix up its schedule in 2020-21, Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN reports, the league’s 75th anniversary season. Among the ideas floated have been the addition of a mid-season cup, play-in games for the traditional postseason and a reduction in the number of regular season games.

The talks are exploratory at this stage and, even if implemented for 2020-21, would only be considered a pilot program as opposed to an indefinite change.

Such ambitious changes to the schedule come at a time when there’s already some concern with the length of the NBA season. The Toronto Raptors just deployed a deliberate load management approach for their star Kawhi Leonard that saw him intentionally held to just 60 regular season contests in preparation for the postseason.

Supporters of the addition of a mid-season cup, Arnovitz says, acknowledge the difficulties of implementing anything without a corresponding reduction in regular season games.

If they do pursue that route, reducing the number of games is easier said than done. Teams generate significant revenue from the broadcast rights and ticket sales to all 82 of their regular season games.

Eventually the additional events could generate an equal amount or more revenue than the regular season games they would be replacing but there’s uncertainty there that may not sit well with the stakeholders involved. Not only do teams need to be on board with the sweeping changes, the players’ union would need to be satisfied as well.

According to Arnovitz, the players’ union could object if they interpreted the league dropping regular season games as a violation of their collective bargaining agreement commitment to “act and use their commercially reasonable efforts to increase [Basketball Related Income] for each Salary Cap Year.”