For all its cool side, the NBA does not seem to be able to translate it into success of audience on television. The league stands firmly against the juxtaposition of being the “fashionable and popular” league – driven by stories, agendas and free agency rumors influenced by social media more than the game itself – and being a novelty or filler that only convinces look when the post-season arrives.
This was the plight of the NBA before the COVID-19 pandemic suspended its season and the operations of all major sports. But when the NBA goes ahead with the restart of the league in late July, it will use the Orlando bubble to experiment and introduce new concepts that we think it should seriously consider implementing for future seasons in order to to attract new fans and breathe life into the seasons. micro-tournaments to spice up the regular season in a way that other sports wouldn’t dare. Here are some suggestions.
Add a play-in tournament before the playoffs
The NBA is already bringing this concept to Orlando as the New Orleans Pelicans, Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs and Sacramento Kings will fight to win the ninth seed. To refresh your memory, the eight regular season games each team will play will be used for seed in the playoffs. If the final difference between the 8th and 9th seeds is less than four games, there will be a game for the right to take the seed in either conference in a traditional series of the best seven.
As part of the regular season, the play-in could work like the league built in the bubble. Let’s say that after a normal regular season, there is a two to three game difference between the No. 8 and 12 seeded in a conference, a single elimination playoff game would certainly be doable and fun. The 8th seeded would get a bye, while the 9th and 12th seeded would play like the 10th and 11th. The winners of 9th against 12th and 10th against 11th will compete with the winner of this confrontation then face the 8th seeded for the last place in the playoffs.
Or, the NBA could roll with a mini-tournament between seeds 7 to 10 where the 7v8 confrontation winner automatically wins a playoff spot, while the 7v8 loser plays the 9v10 winner for the last place. A play-in format for lower level teams will give fans a reason not to quickly advance to the playoffs, then to free will and the draft. If there are high stakes and a high drama around these stakes, the fans will come, sit and watch.
Join a 75-game regular-season and mid-season tournament
In November, plans were made to shorten the regular season, possibly to 75 games and add a mid-season tournament for all teams in time for the 2021-2022 season. Given that 70 games are the benchmark for the team to secure local broadcast revenues, why not shorten the season to 75 games? A regular 75-game season would almost satisfy owners’ income concerns while promoting more rest and providing less dreaded back-to-back for players. Load management would be less necessary.
Although a mid-season tournament seems intriguing, it defeats the goal of shortening the season. The mid-season tournament finalists would play more than 82 games. Certainly, the goal of the mid-season tournament would be to recover lost revenue by shortening the season. However, a mid-season tournament followed by a game at the end of the season would be unnecessary.
Permanent calendar shift
The NBA season generally begins in mid-October and ends in June. The pandemic has forced the league to consider starting the 2020-21 season in December. If the restart of the league goes according to plan and the next season starts in December, this could very well be a permanent change.
Maybe a change for the better.
The NBA season would start just when the NFL regular season ends. They will still face the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl, but they do so anyway under the current schedule. A start date in December would see the Association emerge and peak after the end of the NFL. It will also avoid overlap with the MLB playoffs and the World Series.
If the NBA moves its start date to December, it should do so on Christmas Day, traditionally its biggest day in the regular season. Anyway, there are at least four to five televised games nationwide at Christmas. No other sport plays at Christmas, so all attention goes to the Association.
Institute OTAs out of season
During the NFL off-season, teams usually organize Organized Team Activities (OTA) and a mini-camp before heading to training camp. They are a crucial part of the off-season in which the teams lay the groundwork for the coming season. Due to the pandemic, the eight non-bubble teams are planning their own OTAs before the next season. This makes sense, as these teams are planning a layoff of nine months without organized training. Having OTAs during the off-season will give teams a head start in team development for the coming season. What the league and teams could do is have their OTAs for a week out of season, and players can resume their personal training afterwards.
Since there will be no fans in Orlando, the NBA launched the idea of pumping in the noise of the crowd of 2K video games to simulate fans, among other options. The best option would be to connect the players. Normally, a player and a coach are reduced on national broadcasts. Why not ride on multiple players? On the playing field, trash talk makes the game more exciting and the players themselves know it better than anyone. Fans who consume everything that basketball knows too. Imagine tying a microphone to players like Draymond Green, Patrick Beverley and Russell Westbrook to hear them talk about garbage freely and without censorship. Interest will increase, as will notes. Easy victory for everyone.