If you were one of the 17,732 fans who visited the Barclays Center last Tuesday, you would have noticed a slightly heightened atmosphere for an NBA game in November.
Special towels were distributed to fans for this Nets vs. Magic match, while a gray field design featured a trophy illustration on the center half.
No, this wasn’t an Eastern Conference playoff game. This is now the new normal for the NBA’s In-Season Tournament.
While the concept of an FA Cup-style competition was and still is foreign to many basketball fans, the idea undoubtedly added some extra punch to an 82-game season.
Across the league, the other 29 franchises have also developed special, often flashy course designs for the opening tournament.
Spencer Dinwiddie played for the Nets in their season tournament win against the Magic
And while the hardwood of the likes of the Bulls and Pacers has proven to be a thorn in the side, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will be happy that he has fans’ eyes at all.
According to Sports business magazine According to reports last week, ESPN viewership of the games on the first two Fridays they aired on the network was up a whopping 55 percent over comparable periods last season.
Games on NBA League Pass also performed 42 percent better than the regular season average.
But forget the fans for a moment. Some players love it too.
“It’s another chance to win something,” Domantas Sabonis said The sports news during the summer. ‘In international basketball, these cups are big in the middle of the season. They mean something. And then history happens and that’s important.’
The Pacers field for the regular season tournament is certainly an attention grabber
Warriors forward Draymond Green also distilled the format’s appeal.
“We talk about this season tournament and it’s a playoff game,” he said after a win over the Thunder. ‘It was a fun game to play. The intensity level was there. It’s a good job for the NBA to add this kind of excitement in November because there are some dark days in November, but when you get games like this you can appreciate them. It was amazing.’
While tournament games don’t count extra in the playoff standings, the kind of extra buzz highlighted by Green is important.
For a league that continually struggles with concerns about resting stars and (less) fueling, it’s nice to see the intensity and interest picking up this far away from the playoffs.
That won’t last all season, but let’s hope the momentum continues at least through tournaments.
More of the same for Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant’s move to Phoenix was intended to give him a more reliable superteam than the one he had in Brooklyn, but those plans are going south early this season.
On Friday, Suns guard Bradley Beal was ruled out for three weeks with a lower back strain — meaning the team’s vaunted “Big 3” of Durant, Beal and Devin Booker haven’t even played a game together. Not to mention, Booker also struggled with injuries from the start, missing eight of the team’s first 10 games before returning to the lineup last week.
On an emotional level, this will feel like frustrating deja vu for Durant, who dealt just 16 times on the Nets with Kyrie Irving and James Harden before the project blew up.
And from a practical perspective, the Suns aren’t exactly a team built to withstand injuries.
Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal and Devin Booker haven’t all shared the court together yet
While Grayson Allen and Eric Gordon have contributed nicely on offense so far, the organization has certainly invested more than depth in top talent by paying a combined $130.3 million to the Big 3.
Of course, sometimes even 2/3 of that talent is enough, like when Durant’s 38-point near-triple-double carried Phoenix to the finish against the Jazz on Friday.
Booker should only get fresher and healthier, but overloading a 35-year-old isn’t ideal, especially when you have Durant’s recent injury history.
For now, with Beal absent, Durant will have to carry a heavy load — just as he often had to do in Brooklyn.
Viral moment of the week
A funny clip emerged last week when a fan sitting next to LeBron James on the Lakers’ bench greeted the star with animal noises that sounded like a goat.
James didn’t appear to blink, while Anthony Davis looked slightly confused and another fan smiled.
It was a rather insignificant moment when LA blew out the Grizzlies on Tuesday.
But perhaps it’s more instructive to consider why fans bother to still refer to James as the “GOAT” in his 21st season.
While previous players who made it this far in their NBA careers were largely a withered version of themselves, James is producing at a truly unprecedented level for someone with his mileage.
LeBron James is still going strong for the LA Lakers in his 21st season in the NBA
The most productive Year 21 player of all time was Vince Carter, who averaged 7.4 points per game with the Hawks in 2018-19.
LeBron averages more than triple that: 26.4 points, not to mention 8.2 rebounds and 6.5 assists.
James is no longer the most dominant player in the sport, and his days of being the best title-winning performer are likely behind him.
But he’s still a wonder to see how far along he is in his career and how strong he is approaching his 39th birthday next month.
Annoy him with goat noises while you still can.