NBA reveals long-awaited plans for in-season tournament that starts in November

The tournament will have a prize pool of about $18 million and will be capped by a championship game — which won’t count in the standings — Dec. 9 in Las Vegas.

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“This is a concept that has been rumbling around the league office for about 15 years,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said of the new in-season tournament.

John Minchillo/AP

LAS VEGAS — Coming soon: the NBA Cup.

The NBA unveiled the details Saturday of its inaugural in-season tournament, which will have a prize pool of about $18 million and will be capped by a championship game — which won’t count in the standings — in Las Vegas on Dec. 9. It’s an event that NBA commissioner Adam Silver wanted for years, giving teams a trophy to play for during the regular season.

And now, it’s finally reality.

“This is a concept that has been rumbling around the league office for about 15 years,” Silver said. “It’s not a new concept in sports. For those that follow particularly international soccer, it’s a long tradition of having in-season tournaments ... so we thought, what a perfect opportunity for a global league like the NBA and it’s a perfect fit for our game.”

The tournament payouts for players on standard contracts will be $500,000 apiece for those on the winning team, $200,000 apiece for those on the runner-up, $100,000 apiece for those on the teams that lose semifinal games and $50,000 for those on the teams that lose in the quarterfinals.

Two-way players on any of those teams are eligible for up to half those amounts, depending on how many games they spend on a roster during the tournament.

“I can see what the aim could be,” said Miami guard Josh Richardson, who follows global soccer closely and understands the parallels Silver makes when comparing it to in-season tournaments that sport has around the world. “It gives you another chance to win something, for real. I think that’s a big part.”

Games will start on Nov. 3, being played mostly on Tuesdays and Fridays in November — except for Nov. 7, when the NBA will play no games to commemorate Election Day. That announcement came Saturday, and will mark the second consecutive year when the NBA has no games on that date with hopes of promoting civic awareness and engagement.

The Final Four will be in Las Vegas.

“This city knows how to host big events,” Silver said.

Teams were assigned to a five-team group. They’ll play one game against each other; the six group winners will make the quarterfinals, as will the best two second-place teams from the groups.

They were chosen as follows:

West Group A — Memphis, Phoenix, the Los Angeles Lakers, Utah and Portland.

West Group B — Denver, the Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans, Dallas and Houston.

West Group C — Sacramento, Golden State, Minnesota, Oklahoma City and San Antonio.

East Group A — Philadelphia, Cleveland, Atlanta, Indiana and Detroit.

East Group B — Milwaukee, New York, Miami, Washington and Charlotte.

East Group C — Boston, Brooklyn, Toronto, Chicago and Orlando.

“I’m excited about this midseason tournament,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “I think it’s going to add an element of energy and excitement for the players and coaches and the fans. I think it’s a great idea.”

Joe Dumars, the league’s executive vice president of basketball operations and a Hall of Famer as a player, said he thinks players will like the idea — even if it takes some time.

“Everybody’s not going to buy in right away,” Dumars said. “That can’t be the goal, that everybody’s going to buy in from Day 1. These things take time. And I think as time goes on you can build this up and people can really get into it.”

Tournament games, except for the championship game, will all count in the standings — much in the same way that the WNBA runs its Commissioner’s Cup event.

It’s been known for some time that teams will be getting only an 80-game schedule when the 2023-24 slate is released by the NBA in the coming weeks.

Games 81 and 82 will be added in December; this is where things get tricky.

Teams that don’t make the knockout stage will be assigned two games against other non-knockout qualifiers, and those will be the missing two games on their schedules.

For the eight teams that make the knockout stage, the quarterfinal game becomes the 81st game added to their schedule. Quarterfinal losers — two from the East, two from the West — will play each other, and that’ll be the 82nd game on their schedules. Semifinalists — again, two from the East, two from the West — will play, and that game becomes the 82nd game on their schedules.

That means the championship game will be one of 83 games on the schedule for the last two teams standing. And since the season is 82 games, that game won’t count in the standings, nor will the stats count for anything. They’ll be playing for money and the trophy.

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