In Season… What!?!?

There has been a lot of talk over the last few months about this “In Season Cup” the NBA is adding. The inaugural tournament to determine the winner of the “In Season Cup” kicked off Friday night. All 30 teams were involved. The tournament is structured a lot like the World Cup in Soccer. There are also some similarities to how the Olympics runs its team sports tournaments as well as other international basketball competitions.

There are three groupings of five teams in each conference. Teams are grouped based on their regular season records from 2022-2023. Games will be played every Tuesday and Friday throughout the month of November with the exception of Election Day on the 7th. The games all count toward regular season standings and stats. If you are interested in more specific details about the structure of the tournament go here.

Why is the NBA doing this, you ask? Simple, to gain more fan interest. Some of the differences that might actually draw more fan interest during the early part of the season include the courts having a tournament “feel” to them with the NBA Cup painted at center court. Also, Steve Leblang of Double Overtime shared with me that the courts are not the normal hardwood that players are used to playing on.

The home teams are also using this opportunity to showcase their newest collection of “City Edition” alternate jerseys, with a bit more spotlighting than previous seasons’ unveilings.  As has been the case in past years, some efforts are better received than others.  As a Bulls fan, I see their effort as merely “basic”, a similar style to what the Sacramento Kings are utilizing, but without even the throwback colors and homage to their roots (the Kings are echoing the look of their predescessors, the Cincinnati Royals).

Now let’s look at the seven games that were played Friday night only four of them were close scores basically from start to finish, including the Bulls game. I do not have a TV at home but I did have a chance to be out and watch a few of the earlier games. The only one I was truly paying close attention to was the Bulls game. Instead, I went back to watch highlights of the all the games online Saturday while researching to see what fans think of this In Season Tournament.

Overall, the game play felt very different to me and many fans on social media would agree with me from what I was reading in various conversation threads on X (formally known as Twitter). Simply put it felt like players were trying to take things more seriously than they normally would during early season games but not succeeding at it cause of the difference in the courts specifically the fact that it was not hardwood they were playing on.

I would go as far as to say that the floors are probably why there was not a single game which ended with the winning team on top by more than nine points. Let’s look specifically at the Bulls game since I watched it from beginning to end. The first half was fairly normal in terms of the momentum shifts that occurred.

However, coming out of the half-time break both the Bulls and Nets missed basically every shot in the paint and from three point range for the first 2-3 minutes. This was the first time during the game where I felt like game play was affected by the absence of the normal hardwood floors the players are used to. Thus making it harder for it to feel like players were playing better or harder in an early season game.

Watching the highlights of the Wizards-Heat game it seemed to be the same problem, at least for the Wizards, and they fell behind by 6 points by half-time before falling behind by a 20 going into the fourth quarter. Sadly, it was not only their offense that was struggling but their defense too. While, I want to believe that the flooring not being the normal hardwood is not fully to blame I have to remind myself that this is a very small sample size of seven games and these are only two examples of games where it seemed the difference in the courts played a role.

Here’s the thing folks: While the idea is great on the face of it there is a lot of debate happening amongst fans on social media about different things including but not limited to whether or not players will play harder, the different look to the courts, and the alternate jerseys.

The overall verdict that I am taking away is that players will not play harder to get the financial compensation for being in the quarter finals, semi-finals, and finals.  As for the design of the courts and the basic jerseys. Many fans are saying the basic jerseys give the games a college feel.

There is no real debate about the design of the courts. I only saw fans complaining about the court at the United Center on social media. Many Bulls and Nets fans alike did not like the fact that it was two different shades of red. They said that the red cause them to get more easily distracted. A few of the fans I saw commenting on social media claimed to be at the game Friday night too and said that the game was not as easy to watch cause of the floor being so overtly red. Fans generally liked the designs of the other six courts.

With that… this tournament will be quite interesting to watch.

If you cannot play with them, root for them

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