The NBA In-Season Tournament is a success

The In-Season Tournament already looks like another win for the NBA. The games are competitive, and players and coaches are on board with the new midseason wrinkle.

“It gives us a little extra pep in our step. Games are a lot more meaningful early. Maybe a game that you would yawn through at this point in the season normally has a lot more riding on it,” said Lakers head coach Darvin Ham before their quarterfinal win against the Suns. “The purse perked a lot of ears up once we heard what the layout was for people that get to progress through the tournament and hopefully the championship.”

At first, basketball fans had a hard time wrapping their heads around what the tournament even was. Now that the bracket is set and playing out, it is easy for even the casual fan to follow along.

Up until this point, teams were broken off into six different groups. Games that count towards the in-season tournament were played on Tuesdays and Fridays during November. The top record in each group, as well as two wild card teams, move on to make up the eight-team bracket.

The only incentive other than claiming the trophy is a cash prize each time a team advances through the tournament. Becoming the first in-season champion holds no weight when it comes to the NBA Postseason.

“They are well aware of that bag. Money speaks, and B.S. hits the highway,” said Ham. “Us playing at home in front of our incredible fans is always a treat. It is human nature to understand what is riding on it. A little extra cash never hurt anybody.”

The semifinal games will be played in Las Vegas, featuring the Pacers versus the Bucks and the Pelicans versus the Lakers. The NBA is always looking for ways to improve its product, and this March Madness-style twist is a no-brainer.

“You have a playoff environment out there. Everybody is coming ready to play. You see guys diving on the floor, and there were a lot of bodies on the floor throughout the night, which shows you how hard players are playing on both teams,” said D’Angelo Russell after the quarterfinal.

It will be interesting to see if winning the tournament affects how the eventual champion plays down the second half of the season. One could argue it will put a target on the team’s back, but whoever comes out victorious will also build chemistry and confidence, knowing they have beat out every other team once already.

Top Image Caption: Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker #1 drives against the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA basketball game at Arena, Tuesday December 5, 2023, in Los Angeles. (Ringo Chiu via AP)

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