LAS VEGAS — Coming soon: The NBA Cup.
The NBA unveiled details Saturday of its first-season tournament, which will have an estimated $18 million prize pool and will be concluded by a championship game – which will not count towards the standings – in Las Vegas on December 9. This was the event NBA commissioner Adam Silver had wanted for years, giving teams a trophy to play for during the regular season.
And now, it finally came true.
“This is a concept that has been rumbling around the league office for about 15 years,” said Silver. “This is not a new concept in sports. For those who follow international soccer, it's a long tradition to have 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.
Tournament payouts for standard contract players are $500,000 each for the winning team, $200,000 each for the runners-up, $100,000 each for the team that loses in the semifinal match and $50,000 for the team that loses in the quarter-finals.
Two-way players on either team are eligible for up to half that amount, depending on how many games they spend rostering during the tournament.
“I can see what the goal is,” said Miami guard Josh Richardson, who follows global soccer closely and understands the parallels Silver makes when comparing it to the seasonal tournaments the sport has around the world. “It gives you another chance to win something, really. I think that's a big part.”
Games will begin on November 3, most of which are played on Tuesdays and Fridays in November – except for November 7, when the NBA will not play games to commemorate Election Day. The announcement came on Saturday, and will mark the second year in a row that the NBA will not have games on that date in hopes of raising awareness and civic engagement.
The Final Four will be held in Las Vegas.
“This city knows how to put on a big event,” says Silver.
Teams are assigned to groups of five teams. They will play one game against each other; the six group winners will advance to the quarter-finals, as well as the two best second-placed teams from the group.
They are selected as follows:
West Group A — Memphis, Phoenix, Los Angeles Lakers, Utah and Portland.
Group B West — Denver, Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans, Dallas and Houston.
Western Group C — Sacramento, Golden State, Minnesota, Oklahoma City and San Antonio.
Eastern Group A — Philadelphia, Cleveland, Atlanta, Indiana and Detroit.
Eastern Group B — Milwaukee, New York, Miami, Washington and Charlotte.
Eastern Group C — Boston, Brooklyn, Toronto, Chicago and Orlando.
“I'm excited about this mid-season tournament,” said Golden State coach Steve Kerr. “I think it will add an element of energy and excitement for the players and coaches and the fans. I thought this was a terrific 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 love the idea – even if it takes time.
“Everybody's not going to buy right away,” Dumars said. “That can't be a goal, that everyone is going to be buying from Day 1. These things take time. And I think over time you can build on this and people can really understand it.
Tournament games, except for championship games, will all count toward the standings – much the same as the WNBA runs Commissioner's Cup events.
It's been known for some time that teams will only get an 80-game schedule when the 2023-2024 roster is released by the NBA in the coming weeks.
Games 81 and 82 will be added in December; this is where things get complicated.
Teams that do not qualify for the knockout stage will be given two matches against other non-knockout qualifiers, and those will be the two games missing in their schedule.
For the eight teams to qualify for the knockout stages, the quarter-final tie will be the 81st game added to their schedule. The losing teams in the quarterfinals—two East, two West—will face each other, and it will be the 82nd match in their schedule. The semifinalists—again, two from East, two from West—would play, and the game would be the 82nd game on their schedule.
That means the championship game will be one of 83 games in the final two teams standing schedule. And since the season is 82 games, those games won't count towards the standings, nor will the stats count for anything. They will play for money and trophies.