The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association are reportedly in discussions about dramatic changes to the league's schedule, including a 78-game regular season, an in-season tournament, play-in games to determine playoff berths and reseeding teams during the postseason.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe reported Saturday that the talks, which also include the NBA's broadcasting partners, are "progressing" and could lead to a vote at the board of governors meeting in April ahead of potential implementation for the 2021-22 season.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been "driving" the conversations with the hope that changing up the league's format can "combat stagnation" at a time when avenues for content consumption are exploding, per ESPN.
Silver, who took over the commissioner role in 2014, has long advocated looking toward the model used by European soccer for ideas to improve the NBA's product.
He discussed his thoughts on adding tournaments in April:
"That's why I'm particularly interested in looking at different kinds of formats—at midseason tournaments, for example, play-in tournaments—because even accepting that players have so many miles on their bodies, there may be better ways to present it. Assuming guys are going to play 82 games, maybe there should be a certain number of games in the regular season and then there should be two tournaments throughout the season."
In Europe, most soccer champions are determined solely by regular-season standings since there are no playoffs. But there is a variety of tournaments—both Europe-based events like the UEFA Champions League and domestic cups—built in to the schedule to give clubs more title chances.
It's hard to imagine any United States-based sports league eliminating its postseason; it's too much ingrained in the American sports culture. But a combination of ideas could work, though questions will be raised about star players' availability for in-season tournaments in the load management era.
Meanwhile, the topic of playoff reseeding has gained steam in recent years with the Western Conference, led by the previously dominant Golden State Warriors, typically featuring more championship contenders than the Eastern Conference.
The plan under discussion would reseed the four remaining teams before what are now the conference finals. That means two teams from each conference would still reach the penultimate stage, but it would create the possibility of an East vs. East or West vs. West matchup in the NBA Finals.
That would follow a step-ladder play-in tournament before the playoffs to determine the final two seeds in each conference, according to ESPN. The No. 7 seed would host the No. 8 seed for direct entry. The loser would face the winner of a game between the No. 9 and No. 10 seeds for the final berth.