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Is the NBA about to go the FA Cup route? Commissioner says it’s an option

Jul 17, 2014, 7:44 PM EDT

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news conference during the NBA board of governors meeting Tuesday, July 15, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher) AP

Kurt Helin has more on this at ProBasketballTalk, but there’s an obvious soccer angle to this one, particularly with NBA commissioner Adam Silver evoking “European soccer” as a source of inspiration. Amid the discussions of lottery tweaks and other considerations that are preoccupying the league’s competition committee comes an idea that could turn the heads of a few soccer fans, especially among the league’s huge overseas audience.

Speaking to the media yesterday in Las Vegas, Silver said the committee was “excited” about the league of implementing in midseason tournament – a neutral site event that would draw some inspiration from the cup competitions we see throughout world soccer.

From NBA boss, while attending the Vegas summer league:

“One of the things … that the competition committee talked about and seemed excited about is potentially some sort of midseason tournament.

[It’s] very early days in the discussion of that, but we’re looking at other opportunities in the league to create excitement.

As one of our general managers said at the meeting, there’s very few things you can win in the NBA. When you think about European soccer, for example, they have the FA Cup, and they have other tournaments throughout the season.”

Though he uses the FA Cup as an example, it doesn’t appear as if the commissioner is imagining a long competition that would run in parallel to the NBA season. Instead, the committee seems to be considering breaking in the middle of the campaign to hold a neutral site competition, something that could add another marquee event to the league’s calendar.

Of course, assuming it would be a marquee event might be a mistake, but given the popularity of other knockout competitions (both in the soccer and basketball realms), a second, smaller tournament could add the excitement Silver seeks. While in terms of identifying the best team, cup competitions may not be the ideal solution, having an FA or League Cup-type tournament could give struggling teams a reason to stay competitive. The first time a Sacramento-type team goes on a Wigan-esque run, the NBA will have given fans often left outside the playoffs reason for midseason hope.

And where would such an event be held? Speaking from Vegas, where summer league has experienced a 25 percent increase in attendance, Silver suggested the obvious:

If we were to look at some sort of mid-season tournament, I could imagine doing something in Vegas. This would be a terrific neutral site location.

As Helin mentions, the idea of the NBA shortening its schedule, thereby costing franchises significant revenue, is difficult to imagine, but for NBA diehards who have trouble waiting through the long offseason (one that can last five months between competitive games, if you don’t make the playoffs), another month of basketball would be welcome. To reinforce the soccer parallel, nobody seems to mind that major leagues occupy nine or 10 months of the calendar. By the time teams embark on their summer tours, fans are itching to get back to the stadium.

Longer schedule or not, the NBA looks intent on considering the option, though if I could make one suggestion: Spread the initial knockout round matches through late fall; allow the isolated “Jordan Cup” games to build excitement for a final eight; then get those fans to Vegas sometime after the All-Star break.

After all, that drawn out hope is part of the agony and ecstasy soccer fans have gotten used to. If you’re part of the goal here is to generate excitement, let that buzz simmer. Plant the seeds in November. Enjoy the harvest in March.

  1. skjln - Jul 17, 2014 at 8:11 PM

    Make more CL than FA Cup. Invite the best teams from other world leagues.

    • mikeevergreen - Jul 18, 2014 at 10:48 AM

      Real Madrid, AC Milan, etc., all have basketball teams, you know.

  2. Ryan Brister - Jul 17, 2014 at 8:55 PM

    Pants the seeds, indeed.

  3. mdac1012 - Jul 17, 2014 at 9:35 PM

    The NBA would have to come up with an incentive for winning this tournament. Maybe an automatic spot in the playoffs or something to entice teams to play their regular players. Otherwise, you are going to see a tournament filled with bench warmers and guys on 10 day contracts while the teams rest their big players.

  4. braxtonrob - Jul 17, 2014 at 9:56 PM

    Great idea! De-value the NBA Finals by having a completely irrelevant tournament practically right before the playoffs start. Brilliant!

    Does anyone want to be the next NBA Commissioner; I think the job is about to open up again.

  5. rmccleary97 - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:21 AM

    Any “FA Cup” comparison is probably poor. In the FA Cup, you’ll see teams from the lower levels move up because there’s some overlap in quality between levels – so it’s not a huge surprise to see those lower teams move into the quarters and semis. The best D-League team is still probably worse than the worst NBA team; the D-League has tons of guys who can’t (and won’t) make the NBA. Maybe a D-League team gets into the round of 16, and *maybe* every once in a great while someone gets to the quarters … but after that (and much of the time before then), those lower-levels teams are going to get stomped.

    On the incentive thing: it’s going to have to be one hell of an incentive to get teams interested. Playoff-bound teams won’t care about a playoff spot (and maybe not even seeding if they’re on pace to lock a high seed down), I don’t know how much money will do it (for lower-level guys, sure … for the superstars making $12-20 million or more?), … I don’t know what that’s going to be.

    • Sgc - Jul 19, 2014 at 2:29 PM

      “you’ll see teams from the lower levels move up because there’s some overlap in quality between levels”

      Or really, the other way around. Championship clubs invest in quality because they might be promoted. You’re probably right, though, that the presence of an FA Cup by itself, especially one that the top division might not take quite as seriously, is not likely to provide that kind of incentive for investment.

  6. jhnyr45 - Jul 18, 2014 at 9:22 AM

    Just make it a prospect tournament… the best up and coming NBA players against basketball clubs such as Barcelona and Bayern Munich and the other major teams in europe…. Yes they have basketball teams

  7. sokorissokoris - Jul 18, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    A relegation system would be a better idea than a midseason tournament. I barely care about NBA basketball as it is, and I know the league owners (and most likely the players as well) would probably not be in favor of relegation because of the financial consequences.

  8. scoochpooch - Jul 18, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    Anything that will limit the number of already pointless regular season games is a positive step. 58 game season, play everyone twice, no more divisions, one large league table. Have tourneys/cups throughout to generate revenue.
    One question of the always stated idea of losing revenue by not hosting as many home games; do all teams make money on these games? For example, what’s the point of hosting a game, making say $10m in revenue but costs total $12m?

    • Sgc - Jul 19, 2014 at 2:33 PM

      There really are too many regular season NBA games, especially when it gets to games on back to back days the quality of games goes down (at least for that team). And with 82, teams don’t worry as much about dropping one here and there. It would only take maybe half of that to figure out who’s playoff quality and who isn’t.

      • Sgc - Jul 19, 2014 at 2:34 PM

        I should add, of course, that the real problem is people still pay for those extra games, so if you eliminated them, you’re crossing your fingers and hoping TV revenue makes up the difference. (Either that, or you would have to build a whole generation of bigger stadiums and hope to draw 35,000 fans a game).

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