LAS VEGAS – The NBA officially unveiled its newly formed season tournament and the NBA Cup, which teams will claim to win at the NBA2K24 Summer League on Saturday afternoon. The event is the culmination of a vision NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has had for years to bring a European Cup competition to the league.
“This is a concept that’s been rumbling around the league office for about 15 years,” Silver said on a special episode of “NBA Today” from “NBA Con” as part of the league’s annual gathering in Las Vegas. “We thought what a perfect opportunity for a global league like the NBA and it fits our game perfectly.
“New traditions take time. But throughout the sport, we see new innovations, and now it’s time for this NBA tournament of the season.”
As part of Saturday’s announcement, the league also revealed the six five-team groups — three made up of Eastern Conference teams and three made up of Western Conference foes — that will make up the tournament’s group stage:
Group 1: Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons
Group 2: Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets
Group 3: Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Orlando Magic
Group 4: Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers
Group 5: Denver Nuggets, LA Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets
Group 6: Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs
To create the groups, the NBA used a World Cup-style lottery process, with each conference divided into five pools separated by last year’s regular season standings. Pot 1 featured the teams that finished first through third — so in the East, the Bucks, Celtics and 76ers; followed by teams 4-6 landing in Pot 2 (Cavaliers, Knicks and Nets); teams 7-9 land in Pot 3 (Hawks, Heat, Raptors); teams 10-12 land in Pot 4 (Bulls, Pacers and Wizards); and teams 13-15 land in Pot 5 (Magic, Hornets and Pistons).
From there, one team was randomly selected from each of the five pools to create what the league hopes will be three evenly matched groups of teams to compete against each other.
The group stage portion of the tournament will consist of four matches – one against each of the other four teams across each group – which will take place on seven dates throughout November. This year those dates will be November 3, 10, 14, 17, 21, 24 and 28 – a combination of four Fridays and three Tuesdays.
Evan Wasch, the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball strategy and analysis and a key figure behind the creation of the season tournament, said the league will do its best to have back-to-backs as part of these group games. kept to a minimum.
“The commitment we made to the teams is that we would do everything in our power to avoid the group stage being the second night of back-to-backs, it will probably be impossible to avoid that some of them will be the first night of back-to-back-to-backs,” Wasch said. “It’s probably impossible for us to deliver a schedule where they’re not on the first or second night [any] back to back. So the commitment we’re hoping to achieve at this point is to avoid back-to-back second nights.”
From there, the winner of each group advances to the knockout round, along with the highest finishing team that did not win a group in each conference. Those teams will then play quarterfinal games on December 4th and 5th at the higher seeded teams, with the four teams that win those games advancing to the semifinals on December 7th at T-Mobile Arena, followed by the championship game on the 9th. Dec.
Until the title game, East and West teams will play only opponents within their conference, creating an East vs. West showdown in the championship game in the same format as the NBA playoffs.
During the knockout rounds on days when no tournament play is scheduled during the season (December 6 and 8), the 22 teams that do not qualify for the knockout rounds will each play two regular season contests.
Players will take home $500,000 for being on the team that wins the NBA Cup, while players on the team that loses in the title game will take home $200,000 each, with players on the semifinal losing team each getting $100,000 and players in the quarterfinals taking the losers. home $50,000. However, while other incentives were discussed to give players and teams more incentive to invest in the tournament, such as guaranteeing the winner a playoff berth, the league ultimately chose not to institute such measures.
As part of that process, the league readily admits it will take time for people to get used to having a new trophy to win and a new competition as part of the NBA season, but believes that eventually it will an integral part of the NBA calendar.
“Everybody’s not going to buy in right away,” said Joe Dumars, the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball operations. “So it cannot be the goal that everyone will buy in from day one.
“These things take time. And I think as time goes on, I think you can build this up and people can really get into it.”
As for the decision to name the championship trophy the “NBA Cup” — as opposed to, say, naming it after former NBA commissioner David Stern as some had speculated — Wasch said the league considered a number of different names for both the tournament itself and the championship trophy before deciding to go with basic descriptions for each.
However, he admitted that both could change in the future – especially if sponsors get involved.
“I’d say we went through an extensive exercise naming both the tournament itself and the trophy, because they don’t have to be the same, do they?” Wasch said. “Ultimately, we decided that at least in the early years, you try to establish something from the ground up and build understanding. So the literal terms that we felt were just the most resonant in the market, and we recognize that that could come with some criticism that they lack creativity and are too simple, but we felt that was the best way to build a fan understanding of what this is.
“This is an in-season tournament and the winner will lift a trophy – the NBA Cup. Now, can those names change over time? Yes. Can they have rights attached to them as we build partners around this? Yes, absolutely. So I think those things will change, but for now, these kind of more basic descriptions, we thought, are the right approach to get this going.”