NBA In-Season Tournament Draws Extra Attention to NBA Regular Season

Austin Ruzbarsky
Staff Writer

The NBA In-Season Tournament was organized for a multitude of reasons. The advantages are already apparent. The players report that there is more energy in such competitions, ratings are up, and people are talking about games before Christmas, when most casual NBA fans start to pay attention as the NFL and College Football seasons wrap up. It is therefore effective. Furthermore, it makes sense to assume that interest will only increase given that spots for the knockout round are up for grabs beginning this week.

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Draymond Green, who has played in plenty of high-profile games while winning his four championships with the Golden State Warriors, knows as good as any what a playoff-type atmosphere feels like. When asked about how this In-Season Tournament has felt for the players on the court, Draymond said: “We talk about this in-season tournament and it’s a playoff game. It was a fun game to play in. The intensity level was there. It’s a job well done to the NBA, adding this type of excitement in November, because there are some dark days in November, but you get games like this, you can appreciate them. It was great.”

During the first couple weeks of the group stage, the number of viewers for the games airing on ESPN has increased by 55% compared to the same windows the previous year. According to the NBA, group-play games aired on TNT and ESPN averaged 1.5 million viewers, a 26% increase over comparable games last year. The average audience for group-play games on regional sports networks and over-the-air stations was 20% higher than the average in November of last year.

Even while the national tournament games are only attracting around 1.7 million spectators, it’s still better than what the NBA rakes in during their least-watched month of the season, and that’s what matters most. People will be more likely to watch a game if you tell them it has greater significance. There’s no doubt that as the tournament advances to the knockout stages, those viewership numbers will only increase.

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Erik Spoelstra is another NBA great who knows a thing or two about postseason atmospheres during his long tenure with the Miami Heat, where he has made six NBA Finals and won two. When discussing the In-Season Tournament, Spoelstra said: “The last time there was a move like this, it was a play-in. I remember everybody saying, ‘Oh, it’s a horrible idea, this and that.’ But I think it’s been really good for the league. … So this, I think, just give it a little bit of time and I think, ultimately, it’ll be good for the league.”
For the format of this inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament, the six group winners advance to the quarterfinals, and two wild-card clubs also make it that far. The two teams with the best second-place finishes will be the Wild Cards, most likely ones with big point differentials and 3-1 records. December 4 and December 5 are the quarter final dates. The NBA Cup and the $500,000 per player championship game are scheduled for December 9 with the semifinals taking place on December 7th, all three games will be held in Las Vegas. For players on rookie-scale or veteran-minimum contracts, an extra $500,000 may seem insignificant to the superstars like LeBron James, who, according to Forbes, is making nearly $120 million this year between his salary and off-court earnings. Many players have acknowledged that the monetary incentive is having the desired effect, and teams have come up with inventive ways to remind players how much $500,000 can buy.

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