It’s official, the NBA is finally launching the long-rumored “In-Season Tournament.” On Saturday night, the league hosted a kick-off show on ESPN, where the groups for the tournament’s first stage were announced. As the results of the draw surfaced, it became apparent that Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics may have been placed into the easiest group in the Eastern Conference.
The groups are listed below:
Group 1: Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons
Group 2: Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets
Group 3: Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Orlando Magic
Group 4: Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers
Group 5: Denver Nuggets, LA Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets
Group 6: Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs
Boston’s Group 3 appears to be the lightest of those in the East. Toronto, Chicago, and Orlando all missed the playoffs last year, while Brooklyn earned a spot — due largely in part to their strong first half of the season with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
The Celtics are the strongest team in the group by far, with the Magic likely behind them as second-best. Orlando did give Boston trouble last season, taking three-of-four regular-season meetings between the two sides.
What will it take for the Boston Celtics to win the ‘In-Season Tournament?’
In order for the Boston Celtics to take home the first-ever “NBA Cup” trophy, they’ll either have to finish at the top of their group over the course of four early-season games — one against each other team in the bunch — or finish second in the group but have the best record of any other non-group winner in the Eastern Conference to clinch the wild-card spot.
If the C’s were to advance, then they’d find themselves in the knockout stage of the tournament. At that point, they’ll play one of the four other East teams remaining in a single-elimination game. Should they win that, they’d play the winner of the other East matchup in the tournament’s semi-final, which will be held on Dec. 7 in Las Vegas.
Another win would land Boston in the final, also to be played in Vegas on Dec. 9.
The new “In-Season Tournament” should be interesting at the very least. The NBA is seemingly rolling it out in an effort to add higher stakes to early regular-season matchups and get fans excited about games in the fall and early winter.
Will it work? Maybe.
What will likely happen is that the fans of whichever team wins will try and put weight into the achievement — because their team won — while other fanbases downplay the event, almost like the way the 2020 Bubble Playoffs went down.
Make no mistake, the Lakers’ title is fake and it was a Mickey Mouse operation…
In all seriousness, the event should be good for the league. There could be some cool moments that happen as a result of the single-elimination format’s chaos.
One of the bigger question marks is whether or not the players will actually care. It’s yet to be seen if the $500,000 bonus will entice players to rake in $40 million or more for any given season.