Adam Silver may have a revolutionary idea to replace the NBA All-Star Game and to shorten the NBA season at the same time — a 30-team tournament for a smaller mid-season title, similar to what takes place in European soccer leagues.
Silver discussed the potential plan during a chat with Bill Simmons at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, an annual summit discussing the use of analytics in sports. In a wide-ranging chat about the rise of international players, concerns about anxiety and the mental health of NBA players, and ways to open up the game to new fans, Silver broached the idea of copying an idea from European soccer. He noted that there are different tiers of championships and trophies for teams beyond whatever league they should play in.
During the discussion, which was broadcast on Periscope, Silver discussed the idea of shortening the NBA season and potentially replacing the All-Star Game with a single-elimination tournament. The idea generated some buzz online, though it doesn’t appear that there are any concrete plans to enact it. The idea remains solidly in the conceptual phase for now.
This isn’t the first time that Adam Silver has looked across the pond to borrow an idea from European soccer leagues. When the NBA introduced new rules to guard against teams tanking to win the top lottery pick, Silver floated the idea of the relegation system used in European soccer leagues. There, the worst teams are dropped down to the minor league and the best minor league teams are promoted to the top.
“There’s a mindset that if you’re going to be bad, you might as well be really bad,” Silver said, via the New York Daily News. “I believe personally that’s corrosive for those organizations.”
It’s a sports weekend for me at the MIT Sports Analytics Conference. @NBA Commissioner Adam Silver w/ @BillSimmons says a mid-season single elimination tournament would be a good way to tighten up the number of regular season games. That seems like a no brainer. #whosaysno pic.twitter.com/PC4Nxp0rKi— Derek J. Brookmeyer (@derekbroo) March 1, 2019
Whatever might happen, it seems that Adam Silver is determined to address concerns about an 82-game season. In an interview with USA Today, Silver noted that the tendency of top-tier teams to regularly rest players — sometimes during nationally televised games — to preserve them for the long season and playoffs is a by-product of a season that may simply be too long.
“There’s nothing magical about 82 games,” Silver said. “It’s been in place for 50 years, but for the long-term planning of the league, as we learn more about the human body and the wear and tear of travel and the competitive landscape… invariably we’ll look at the regular season.”
The NBA under Adam Silver has been more active in working with teams on resting players, even issuing a memo asking that they be in contact with the league about when they could be giving top players a night off at the same time. The idea to institute a mid-season tournament that could replace some games could be another potential solution, but it’s not clear how — or when — it might be implemented.