I have a few questions.
For a while now, the NBA has been force-feeding us this whole “mid-season tournament” idea while we continue to push it away like a kid does his vegetables. Commissioner Silver and Co. have been testing the waters ad nauseum which can only mean it’s coming to a season near us sooner, rather than later.
I don’t know if that means it will replace the All-Star Game (which would suck for those of us who enjoy the mid-season dunk-fest) or whether it will take place in addition to the game (which would only irk those looking to play fewer games rather than more). Either way, it’s in the mail.
I’m not sure the timing is right to raise this up the union’s flagpole. The NBA is coming off a season in which every major superstar got hurt. Now they’re going to tell those stars they’ve added a mid-season tournament to the schedule? Doesn’t that negate the whole concept of spacing out the regular season for safety’s sake? Guys like Kevin Durant have to be rolling their eyes in fear of rolling their ankles.
A recent report claims the team which wins the mid-season tournament would earn up to a million dollars per player but let’s be honest, what’s a million dollars to Kevin Durant? That’s a night out on the town ordering the small filet. Call me kooky but I’m pretty sure Durant would rather pay one million of his own money for the assurance of a healthy roster come playoff time. A million bucks might incentivize that last guy on your bench but their votes count far less than those sipping chianti yacht-side with LeBron at Players’ Association meetings.
To be very clear, I’m not opposed to change. The NBA geek in me is more than happy with all the basketball I can get my hands on. Just don’t try to tell me what’s suddenly important just because you say it is.
Here’s another wrinkle…
What if, the Brooklyn Nets beat the Los Angeles Lakers in this mid-season tournament? They raise their little trophies, schedule some mini-parade and throw around a few party streamers. Then, the league gets back together, plays the rest of its merry season and the Nets meet the Lakers once again, this time in the NBA Finals. Except this time around, the Lakers beat the Nets.
Do we call this season a tie? Which championship is valued more?
We’ve been conditioned for decades, and by we, I mean both the players and the fans, to value an NBA championship over anything else. It’s what they train endlessly for. It’s what they sacrifice their bodies for. It’s what they leave their families for weeks at a time. Suddenly this new-fangled, artificially inseminated tournament is supposed to mean as much as a championship, or some minimum percentage of that?
Players, especially those at the highest level, could give a damn about individual accolades and they sure as shit don’t want any mid-season participation trophy. Let’s say Damian Lillard gets scorching hot and carries his Portland Trailblazers to a mid-season tourney championship. Do you think that’ll mean anything to him? Of course not! He wants a title. No mid-summer night’s dream is going to add any significant validation to his career other than hoisting the Larry O’Brien.
And what about teams resting players? If teams value an NBA Finals considerably more than this mid-season tournament, what’s to stop teams from resting their stars load management style? Furthermore, how will the league prevent them from doing so when they’ve been unable to in the past? You can’t even get the league’s superstars to participate in the Olympics, you expect them to throw down in some tournament that only means something because you give them one of those big Happy Gilmore checks at the end of it?
I’m not buying it.
To be clear once again, Commissioner Silver, I’m always down for more basketball. But I’ve been watching the game for forty years. Don’t tell me something means something when it doesn’t.
I already know what’s important. So do the players.