Adam Silver ponders big changes to NBA, from midseason tournaments to shorter games

The commissioner of the National Basketball Association has some big ideas for changes to the league. However, not even he is sure people are going to want hear them.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver discussed a wide range of ideas to change the league’s format during a news conference Friday covered by the Associated Press, entertaining the possibility of midseason tournaments and changes to how much basketball is played under the league’s logo.

Silver, who has discussed ideas like this before, openly admitted that the NBA’s regular season could be losing its luster.

Via the AP:

''The format we have in place now - I'm a traditionalist on one hand, but on the other hand it's 50 years old or so, presenting an 82-game season, and there's nothing magical about it,'' Silver said.

''I think it's on the league office to always be challenging the way we do things, to be paying attention to changing viewer habits, a changing marketplace, a new world of the way media is presented, often on smaller devices, less on screens, people having shorter attention spans, and saying, 'This is an incredible game, it's never been more exciting, the athleticism has never been greater, fantastic players coming from all around the world, but what's the best way to put the season together?'''

Silver didn’t hold back when trying to answer that last question.

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The FA Cup or Copa del Rey, but for basketball

To inject some drama during the regular season, Silver painted a picture that sounds a lot like European soccer, where tournaments are woven into league schedules and hold plenty of meaning for fans.

''That's why I'm particularly interested in looking at different kinds of formats - at midseason tournaments, for example, play-in tournaments - because even accepting that players have so many miles on their bodies, there may be better ways to present it,'' Silver said. ''Assuming guys are going to play 82 games, maybe there should be a certain number of games in the regular season and then there should be two tournaments throughout the season.'

Per ESPN, Silver acknowledged it would take fans a long time to adjust to such a new structure:

"I know for most of the American viewers, that's a very foreign concept because we're not used to having multiple goals throughout the season," Silver said. "But as I said, it's very commonplace in international soccer. It would take a while to develop those new traditions because I think initially the reaction may be who cares who wins the midseason tournament; it's all about the Larry O'Brien Trophy. So we need to take a long-term perspective on these things.

Silver doesn’t seem to be proposing anything specific with the tournament idea, but there are a number of possibilities.

There could be tournaments deciding certain playoff spots or seeding, a short tournament replacing the All-Star game (something Silver has said in the past “didn’t work”), maybe even a tournament among lottery teams for the top pick. Silver is thinking outside the box, and that could could go in plenty of directions.

What if the NBA just played less basketball?

Another issue Silver reportedly discussed was player health and how to mitigate the grind of an 82-game regular season. Some ideas mentioned included relatively conventional changes — opening the season earlier, a longer All-Star break, reducing back-to-back-games — but he also mentioned an idea that would make the plenty in the league and its rightsholders shudder: not having an 82-game regular season in the first place:

''I think a fair point from fans could be if ultimately the science suggests that 82 games is too many games for these players, maybe you shouldn't have an 82-game season,'' Silver said. ''I accept that, and that's something we'll continue to look at.''

Another idea Silver reportedly mentioned was simply shortening the games from 48 minutes to 40, the length of college basketball games.

To be clear, none of this is a formal proposal or on the table during negotiations with the players union. It’s just Silver wondering aloud how to fix some of the league’s present and future problems, and that should be a healthy dynamic.

None of this is happening unless a good chunk of the league, especially the players, is on board. Most importantly, the fans need to be interested. Even with such obstacles, it’s still an interesting idea to think about as the NBA prepares for the future.


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