Report: NBA considering reduction in games, in-season tournament for 2021-22

The NBA is considering reducing its 82-game season, ESPN reported Wednesday. 

A committee with about a dozen top team basketball and business operations executives had a conference call June 17 to explore alternative scheduling ideas for the 2021-22 season. In addition to shortening the season, executives brainstormed ideas around introducing in-season tournaments and a postseason play-in tournament for what will be the league's 75th season. 

Commissioner Adam Silver told the New York Times in May that he was interested in both tournament concepts after studying their benefits in European soccer, but this is the first report of those being officially explored. 

The committee that met doesn’t have governing authority and simply makes recommendations to the NBA’s Board of Governors. However, if eventually introduced, the reforms would be implemented as a pilot program, giving the NBA a trial run of sorts. 

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There are concerns about how reducing games would affect the revenue of teams, which make money from attendance and have commitments to broadcast and advertising partners, but executives hope the tournaments could, over time, make up for such losses. 

The reduction of games was only considered as a way to supplement proposed tournaments, but the idea to do so has been a topic of interest around the league for some time.

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard guards Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant. (Photo: Tom Szczerbowski, USA TODAY Sports)

Over the past few seasons, NBA teams have rested star players more and more to reduce the risk of injury during the regular season, which spans from October to April. The Toronto Raptors had Kawhi Leonard sit out certain games for “maintenance” during the regular season, and come June he led the team to its first championship and was named the Finals MVP. 

According to ESPN, the number of games to potentially be reduced varied widely from just a few to trimming the season to 58 games — which would ensure each team could host the other 29 at least once. Though different options were discussed on the call, ESPN reports team officials weren’t in favor of a major reduction of games. 

No decision is expected to be made for some time and nothing can be implemented without the agreement of numerous parties, including the players union, stakeholders, ownership groups, broadcast partners and sponsors, among others.

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