Report: NBA Formally Proposes 78-Game Season, In-Season Tournament for 2021-22

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2019

SAITAMA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 08: Commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Adam Silver speaks during a press conference prior to the preseason game between Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors at Saitama Super Arena on October 08, 2019 in Saitama, Japan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. 
 (Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)
Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images

As it attempts to reshape the regular season, the NBA reportedly shared with all 30 teams its initial proposal for how the 2021-22 campaign would be structured. 

Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium provided the details, which included shrinking the season from 82 to 78 games, as well as an in-season tournament and changes to the playoffs:

Shams Charania @ShamsCharania

Sources: NBA has sent teams the proposal for 2021-22 season changes: - 78-game regular season - In-season tournament ($1M per player, $1.5M coaches pool for champion) - Play-in tourneys for 7-8 playoff seeds - Final 4 reseed in playoffs based on regular season records

Shams Charania @ShamsCharania

Sources: NBA's in-season tournament format proposal: All 30 teams involved from late Nov. to mid-Dec.: - Divisional games (4 home, 4 away) for group stage - 6 divisional stage winners, plus 2 wildcards for knockout - Quarterfinals at home market; semifinals/Finals at neutral site

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe reported in November that the NBA was "engaged in serious discussions with the National Basketball Players Association and broadcast partners on sweeping, dramatic changes to the league calendar."

The league is attempting to generate more interest in the regular season as stars increasingly focus more on managing their workloads for the playoffs. The viewership for nationally televised games is down as well to start 2019-20.

In order to incentivize the biggest stars to participate in the in-season tournament, Wojnarowski reported Friday the NBA is prepared to pay $1 million to every player on the winning team.

Wojnarowski added the prize money may not be enough of a lure:

"Some team executives are skeptical about the plans. Among the concerns of top front-office officials discussing these ideas with the league office: Star players might prefer the five-day scheduling break that would come with not qualifying for the tournament rather than competing for the financial reward of a winner-take-all event that requires a quarterfinal, semifinal and title round to become champion."

Based on the schedule laid out by Charania, the in-season tournament would effectively extend the regular season as well, even for the teams that didn't qualify for the quarterfinals. The group stage alone lasts eight games.

It's unclear whether this is the NBA's final proposal or if the league is open to further tweaks. According to Wojnarowski, the new format will need to be approved at the NBA's board of governors meeting in April to go into effect for 2021-22.