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‘I can’t wait’: Excitement builds for first tournament of NBA season | NBA


The race for the inaugural NBA Cup begins Friday night with all 30 teams set to compete for a new trophy and cash bonuses.

When Greg Popovich is excited, you know you’re on to something. The often reserved San Antonio Spurs coach is known for keeping his cool and not resorting to hyperbole. It’s what helped his team win five NBA championships during his tenure. But now as the league prepares to embark on its latest endeavor — the season tournament, which begins Friday night — the 74-year-old coach says the event is “exciting for everyone.” Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, the Spurs coach reminded those listening how motivated NBA players are. So, with a chance to win the new NBA Cup, Pop says teams will rise to the challenge.

“You have to understand that all these guys are very competitive,” Popovich says of the NBA roster. “If you release something like that, it just adds to that competition.”

Many people around the league, from current and former players, coaches, representatives and even NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, have touted the new season tournament. Amid a regular-season schedule that stretches 82 games over six months (plus the playoffs), the length can sometimes seem interminable. That’s why league officials took inspiration from organizations such as European soccer for the season’s new competition to spice things up and give teams something else to win.

The tournament, which begins with a full set of Friday games, features each of the NBA’s 30 teams divided into five or six teams based on last season’s win-loss records. First, there is a group stage, where teams compete in their group for four designated matches on Tuesdays and Fridays in November. From there, the six group winners and two wildcards (the teams with the best results who did not win their group) will advance to a knockout stage played in Las Vegas, starting with the quarter-finals on December 4 and 5, followed by the semifinals on December 7 and ending with the championship game on December 9.

The NBA today announced the national broadcast schedule on ABC, ESPN and TNT for the Round of 16 of the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament.

The quarterfinals will be played in the NBA teams’ markets. The semifinals and championship will take place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. pic.twitter.com/tMN4flso77

-NBA Communications (@NBAPR) November 1, 2023

Tournament matches will also feature special uniforms and judicial displays. The winning team will receive the first NBA Cup trophy as well as a cash prize of $500,000 per player. All matches played during the in-season tournament will count towards each team’s 82-game schedule, with the exception of the final. (Only championship teams will play an additional 83rd game.) And teams that don’t reach the final will be assigned home and away games that will also be played in early December to make up the difference.

The league’s hope is that the new tournament will generate fan excitement, create a coveted second trophy and, yes, can be separated as a separate television rights package to generate more revenue (over the course of a year the league negotiated a new television deal). ). It is also possible to highlight teams that may not have the profile of a traditional NBA championship contender. The tournament also marks Silver’s further attempt at innovation after the play-in tournament, which was adopted earlier this decade. And while there remains some mystery about the new event in its first year, many people around the league are embracing it.

“I think it’s going to be great and accepted,” former Charlotte Hornets point guard and current team ambassador Muggsy Bogues told the Guardian. “Because of the long season, it now incentivizes the players and the organization to have something other than the final to play for.”

San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich is optimistic about the value of the first tournament of the NBA season: “You have to understand that all these guys are very competitive. If you post something like that, it just adds to that competition. Photo: Icône Sportswire/Getty Images

Many current NBA stars have also been involved in promoting the season’s tournament, including Anthony Davis, Trae Young and more, in a new advertising campaign. Others like Kevin Durant, Green Draymond, Steph Curry And Anthony Edwards have chosen the teams that will emerge from the different groups. Influential members of the media like Ringer’s Ryen Russillo and ESPN’s Zach Lowe have expressed positivity about the new development, while podcaster Bill Simmons has suggested a contest in this vein for years. Likewise, one of the NBA’s most prominent coaches, Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors, is on board, echoing the sentiments expressed by Popovich, his former coach and mentor.

“We’re very excited,” Kerr told reporters on a Zoom call Thursday evening, the day before his team was scheduled to face the Oklahoma City Thunder in its first tournament game of the season. “Tomorrow will be fun.”

Kerr says he gives “a lot of credit” to the NBA for trying something new. He thinks players around the league will appreciate it too. However, he added, the Warriors “are not going to treat this like the NBA Finals”; specifically, Curry will play no more than 45 minutes per night in hopes of securing a victory. Still, the chance to play for something else during the season is enticing, says Kerr, a nine-time NBA champion as a player and on the sidelines. The coach and former player also pointed out that NBA stars are motivated, so “if you offer them a price, they will be competitive. That’s what they do,” he said.

Asked if he thought the tournament would overload his squad, Kerr said he wasn’t worried. Instead, he leaned into the idea that the event would be “a lot of fun.” Kerr also says he’s a soccer fan, follows international leagues, and is happy the NBA has borrowed from its tradition of holding seasonal competitions like this. Kerr added that after this year, some changes may be necessary for future editions. “As with anything,” he says, “I think we will learn a lot in the first year. Who knows, maybe there will be some adjustments. We need to go through it first and see how it goes.

For Kerr, who oversees a veteran Warriors team with no shortage of trophies, winning the first NBA Cup would be a feather in his cap, even if it’s not his ultimate goal. But for younger teams who may have no hope of winning a title this year, the season’s trophy could provide a solid stepping stone. Kerr, who also advocated for a shorter regular season during Thursday’s call with reporters (one with 70 or 72 games), nevertheless remained positive about what lies in store for his team this week and beyond. “I can’t wait to get on the field,” he said.

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