The NBA is considering making a few radical changes to the regular season and postseason, but Houston Rockets stars James Harden and P.J. Tucker aren’t fans of one of the league’s ideas.
According to ESPN, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association are going over plans that would have a huge impact on professional basketball. The league is considering a postseason play-in, reseeding the conference finals so that the two teams with the best regular season records have a chance to matchup in the Finals and an in-season tournament featuring all 30 teams. Houston Rockets’ stars James Harden and P.J. Tucker don’t seem to be big fans of the regular season tournament idea.
The tournament would feature every team and begin with a divisional group stage that would be part of the normal regular season schedule. Based on the team’s records in the group stage, there would be six divisional winners and the two teams with the second best records would play in an elimination game. Then, the winners would all advance into a tournament.
It’s safe to say that James Harden isn’t a big fan of the idea.
James Harden not exactly on-board with the NBA’s in-season tournament idea:
“Are we in college?” pic.twitter.com/uPS6lnSc9L
— Michael Shapiro (@mshap2) November 26, 2019
P.J. Tucker didn’t seem completely opposed to the idea, but he was quick to remind everyone that the only thing he wants to win is the NBA championship, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen.
“I don’t really care. It’s like cup stuff. The NBA, I doubt they’ll ever get to that. We play for an NBA championship. I don’t want to play for anything else. There is nothing else. It’s like a consolation? I don’t know. We play for an NBA championship, period.”
The league wants the tournament to start in November and end in December, which makes sense, because America will be consumed with the NFL playoffs in January and early February and with college basketball’s tournament in March.
The NBA’s ideas for a postseason play-in and reseeding the conference finals are both sound. In order to determine the last two spots in the playoff seedings for each conference, the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth seeds would enter into a four-team tournament, with the winner of the nine vs. ten game facing the loser of the seven vs. eight matchup for the last spot in the postseason. That could add a lot of extra excitement to the end of the regular season, especially if the seedings are already pretty much determined for the playoffs.
Reseeding the Conference Finals so that the two best regular season teams have a chance to meet in The Finals regardless of conference is obviously the right thing to do. In the 2018 playoffs, it would’ve made a lot more sense to have the Rockets play the Cavaliers and the Warriors play the Celtics in the Conference Finals so that Houston and Golden State would have a chance to face off in The Finals. Instead, the Western Conference Finals was the real championship round that season, as the best team in the east would’ve been a big underdog against either Houston or Golden State.
However, an in-season tournament probably seems like a distraction for many players. The league’s regular season is long, and there has been a lot of discussion about cutting down the number of games, but a tournament in the middle of the season doesn’t seem like the right way to spice things up.
Would the players even take it seriously, or would they just treat it like another regular season game? Would coaches play their star players big minutes in this tournament in order to give their teams the best chance to win, only to risk having their main guys burn out in the postseason or suffer an injury? Why should players care about anything other than winning the Larry O’Brien trophy? Would players like Kawhi Leonard continue to sit out for load management during the tournament in order to be healthy for the playoffs? If so, what would be the potential consequences?
These are all questions the league will have to seriously consider, but it’s clear that James Harden is definitely not in the mood for such a drastic mid-season change.