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The student news site of La Salle Catholic College Preparatory.

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The La Salle Falconer

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The NBA In-Season Tournament Is Just What the League Needed

Olivia Hungerford
The In-Season Tournament introduces a fresh twist to the early half of the NBA’s regular season.

On Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner Adam Silver announced that the In-Season Tournament will be returning to the NBA schedule in future seasons. Earlier this season, the first-ever In-Season Tournament brought added excitement to the league. Its return is a great sign for the direction of the NBA as Silver continues to experiment with different ideas.

Announced in July of 2023, the In-Season Tournament is a new element of the NBA regular season, spanning just over a month from early November to mid-December. The competition features group stage games through November where teams within the same group face off against one another. From those results, the knockout round was set with the six group winners along with a wild card from each conference. Though the quarterfinal round is played at the higher seed’s home court, the semifinals and championship are hosted at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The groups are determined based on teams’ conferences and record from the previous season. First, teams are divided into their respective conference, whether it be East or West. Then, teams are divided into pods derived from last year’s standings. From there, the groups are developed through the random assignment of each pod, creating six total groups of five teams each.

While some may be wondering: ‘Wouldn’t the teams that make it to the knockout round and get eliminated in the knockout round play fewer games?’ NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has an answer for that, setting up matchups between the teams who didn’t advance out of the group stage to play on set dates. Similarly, the teams that lose in the knockout stages will play the other teams that lost in their same round.

Additionally, there may be concerns about the squads in the championship playing an extra game and how that will affect their record and playoff standings. Besides the In-Season Tournament Championship, all of the games throughout the group stage and knockout round count towards the teams’ regular season record — meaning all teams will end the regular season with the same 82 games counted in the win/loss column.

All things considered, Silver did an excellent job piecing together this event. With an additional mid-season tournament, it’d be easy to think that there would be a significant amount of challenges with uneven records and games played. However, to have only two teams playing an extra game — that doesn’t count to their records — is an amazing logistical accomplishment for the league. 

Beyond all of the specifics for the In-Season Tournament’s formatting, its inaugural showing was a spectacle for the NBA. Just as it had hoped for, the league was able to catch more attention early in the season and set the stage for the breakout of a bright young superstar: Tyrese Haliburton. The 23-year-old point guard for the Indiana Pacers was exceptional for his squad, putting up over 24 points per game and 13 assists per game in the three knockout games. Habilurton even had 37 points and 16 assists in a 157-152 high-scoring win against the Atlanta Hawks. Though Habilurton’s Pacers eventually lost in the championship to the Los Angeles Lakers by a score of 123-109, the NBA was able to make one of its great young stars more of a household name.

For me, the In-Season Tournament was a smashing success and I love that it is returning. Though I am a follower of the NBA and know many of the players, I wouldn’t consider myself a ‘superfan’ who is tuning in to every game across the league on a nightly basis. For the ‘regular’ fan, this is exactly what the league needed: excitement about their players, teams, and brand in November and December. In previous years, the National Football League and college football action has dominated the screens for America’s sports-watching audience — leaving early-season NBA action out of the spotlight. However, with the introduction of the In-Season Tournament, the average NBA fan is invested in the season and action earlier than ever.

Just like the play-in tournament that was introduced a few years ago, the NBA continues to add new changes to the season. These constant format changes allow the NBA to experiment with new ideas and make the league something that is worth paying attention to. As the In-Season Tournament emerges to become a staple of the regular season, the NBA is able to catch more eyes in November and December, transforming that stretch of the schedule from a lull to an exhilarating competition with playoff-like finishes and atmospheres. Silver’s drive to continually introduce unique pieces to the NBA schedule allows the league to be more accessible to a wider audience, while also keeping current fans like myself engaged.

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