Adam Silver happy with results of play-in tournament originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The NBA's inaugural play-in tournament brought mixed opinions from around the league. Some loved it, some hated it. LeBron James was a notable member of the second group, as his defending-champion Lakers dropped into the seventh seed and had to play their way into the playoffs.
Count NBA commissioner Adam Silver among those who enjoyed it. He, of course, helped come up with and implement the idea. But after seeing it in action for the first time, he believes it was good for the league and something the NBA can build on.
Silver joined Wizards Pregame Live for a 1-on-1 interview with NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller.
"We were really pleased with the early results from the play-in tournament. In addition to the series of incredibly exciting games we had with the actual play-in games themselves, it changed teams’ behavior in the latter part of the season. For example, this year with two weeks to go in the season, we still had 24 teams that were in contention for playoff positioning, which is an all-time record for the league," Silver said.
"I think there are some teams, teams that would have gone into a rebuilding mode early on in the season, it’s clear some teams that historically might have thrown in the towel a bit and said ‘we’re not going to make the playoffs, anyway, let’s put some younger players on the floor to see what we’ve got on our roster.’ They stayed in the game and they said ‘let’s go for it."
Silver added that he liked how the play-in tournament gave teams who battled injuries early on in the season a better chance for a turnaround. And, though James didn't enjoy how it affected the Lakers, Silver believes the threat of contending teams dropping into a play-in spot had a positive effect on the league. The Lakers-Warriors game drew a big rating on national television.
"I mean, I understand the reaction from some who say there’s a certain unfairness that if you played a long regular season and you’re the seventh seed, and there’s a significant distance from between the seventh seed and the eighth seed, that it’s unfair you could get knocked out in two games. These things, it’s always a balance," Silver said.
"While I understand that criticism, I don’t have a good response for it yet in terms of a tweak that would necessarily make it better. The other side of the play-in, too, is that it causes teams not just to drive to make the playoffs, but then to be a top-6 seed so they can avoid the play-in. So, from that standpoint it helps to better align incentives."
Silver said the play-in tournament experience could impact the league's plans for a midseason tournament someday down the road. It's an idea the league has played around with and Silver sees a lot of potential there, especially now that the play-in tournament was, in his eyes, a success.
"I’m very curious about a midseason tournament. It’s something that we have been thinking about for a while. It’s no secret that we’ve looked at formats for other leagues, particularly European soccer, which has a lot of other forms of competition throughout the season, to keep the regular season interesting," Silver said.
"But plenty of work to do on a midseason tournament, certainly not something that’s going to happen for next season. To the extent that I think there’s more that teams are playing for other than to make the playoffs or to be the champion, it’s a long season and I think that creating an additional trophy or two might be really valuable."
Watch Silver's full interview at 6 p.m. on Saturday night's Wizards Pregame Live.