Is the NBA about to go the FA Cup route? Commissioner says it’s an option

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Kurt Helin has more on this at ProBasketballTalk, but there’s an obvious soccer angle to this one, particularly with NBA commissioner Adam Silver evoking “European soccer” as a source of inspiration. Amid the discussions of lottery tweaks and other considerations that are preoccupying the league’s competition committee comes an idea that could turn the heads of a few soccer fans, especially among the league’s huge overseas audience.

Speaking to the media yesterday in Las Vegas, Silver said the committee was “excited” about the league of implementing in midseason tournament – a neutral site event that would draw some inspiration from the cup competitions we see throughout world soccer.

From NBA boss, while attending the Vegas summer league:

“One of the things … that the competition committee talked about and seemed excited about is potentially some sort of midseason tournament.

[It’s] very early days in the discussion of that, but we’re looking at other opportunities in the league to create excitement.

As one of our general managers said at the meeting, there’s very few things you can win in the NBA. When you think about European soccer, for example, they have the FA Cup, and they have other tournaments throughout the season.”

Though he uses the FA Cup as an example, it doesn’t appear as if the commissioner is imagining a long competition that would run in parallel to the NBA season. Instead, the committee seems to be considering breaking in the middle of the campaign to hold a neutral site competition, something that could add another marquee event to the league’s calendar.

Of course, assuming it would be a marquee event might be a mistake, but given the popularity of other knockout competitions (both in the soccer and basketball realms), a second, smaller tournament could add the excitement Silver seeks. While in terms of identifying the best team, cup competitions may not be the ideal solution, having an FA or League Cup-type tournament could give struggling teams a reason to stay competitive. The first time a Sacramento-type team goes on a Wigan-esque run, the NBA will have given fans often left outside the playoffs reason for midseason hope.

And where would such an event be held? Speaking from Vegas, where summer league has experienced a 25 percent increase in attendance, Silver suggested the obvious:

If we were to look at some sort of mid-season tournament, I could imagine doing something in Vegas. This would be a terrific neutral site location.

As Helin mentions, the idea of the NBA shortening its schedule, thereby costing franchises significant revenue, is difficult to imagine, but for NBA diehards who have trouble waiting through the long offseason (one that can last five months between competitive games, if you don’t make the playoffs), another month of basketball would be welcome. To reinforce the soccer parallel, nobody seems to mind that major leagues occupy nine or 10 months of the calendar. By the time teams embark on their summer tours, fans are itching to get back to the stadium.

Longer schedule or not, the NBA looks intent on considering the option, though if I could make one suggestion: Spread the initial knockout round matches through late fall; allow the isolated “Jordan Cup” games to build excitement for a final eight; then get those fans to Vegas sometime after the All-Star break.

After all, that drawn out hope is part of the agony and ecstasy soccer fans have gotten used to. If you’re part of the goal here is to generate excitement, let that buzz simmer. Plant the seeds in November. Enjoy the harvest in March.