'They’re thinking bigger picture': Why Thunder GM Sam Presti supports NBA in-season tournament
Count Thunder general manager Sam Presti among the proponents of an in-season NBA tournament.
As an aside in his two-hour exit interview, Presti said he loves the play-in tournament, and he added that he’s “a big midseason tournament supporter,” as well.
“I think it’s bold,” Presti said.
Plans for a midseason, or in-season tournament, were proposed by the league in 2019. As reported by The Associated Press, the proposal called for teams to play eight divisional games — which would count toward regular-season records — as part of a group stage between late November and mid December.
The six divisional winners from pool play and two wildcards would advance to a quarterfinal round before the semifinals and finals, which would be hosted at a neutral site before Christmas. Players on the winning team would collect $1 million each, and the winning coaching staff would split $1.5 million.
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That proposal was never brought to a vote. According to multiple reports, not enough owners supported the schedule change.
Given Presti’s comments, and the alliance between him and Thunder chairman Clay Bennett, it’s safe to assume the Thunder would have been in the minority of “yes” votes.
“I think it’s very future-oriented,” Presti said, “and it takes courage to put something out there that is going to probably be maligned a little bit, maybe won’t get the immediate love, but they’re thinking bigger picture.”
Last December, ESPN reported that there was “renewed momentum” behind the in-season tournament, which has been compared to popular mid-season tournaments in European soccer.
At All-Star Weekend in February, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the success of the new play-in tournament has increased the likelihood of the midseason tournament.
Presti said the idea could bring in a non-traditional or younger fan base.
Presti also said the tournament could increase competitive parity, as well as giving teams “more than one thing to win in the NBA.”
The proposal would reduce the regular season from 82 to 78 games, which would cost every team two home games. ESPN reported that big-market owners would be apprehensive to lose that revenue.
But Presti went as far as calling the in-season tournament “necessary to have a better business and a better game in the future."
“But you’ve got to be willing to listen to the peanut gallery for a little while,” he said.