Pacers begin in-season tournament at home on Nov. 3: Full schedule, format and how the team feels about it
“It’s honestly exciting to me. It gives more excitement to the game."
Before the NBA unveils the complete 82-game schedule on Thursday at 3:00 p.m. ET, it continues to follow the NFL’s script of news and the schedule trickling out now during the quietest part of the offseason.
82 games; 41 at home, 41 on the road.
The lineup for Opening Night and Christmas Day have already gotten out, along with many preseason schedules. And on Tuesday, it was another portion of the schedule.
The NBA is debuting its In-Season Tournament this season and all teams will play at least four designated tournament games in November.
The Pacers, who went 35-47 last season, are in East Group A.
Friday, Nov. 3 v Cavaliers, 7:00 p.m. ET
Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 76ers, 7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 21 at Hawks, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 24 v Pistons, 8:00 p.m.
The Cavaliers are likely the top team in the Group and the 76ers are filled with drama. The Hawks have a new coaching staff, including former Pacers assistant Ronald Nored, and the Pistons are an intriguing young team with a new coaching staff (including Dan Burke).
The format was first explained to NBA head coaches at their annual pre-season meetings last September in Chicago.
“I would say that before that meeting, there was a considerable amount of skepticism about it,” head coach Rick Carlisle said back on April 5th. “After hearing how it’s gonna be done, I thought it was a great idea.”
The NBA did get it right by setting designated tournament days — Tuesdays and Fridays in November (with the exception of Election Day, a league holiday so there are no games). Perhaps they learned from the WNBA where Commissioner Cup games are all over the place and difficult to follow.
The 30 teams were randomly divided into groups of five within their conference based on their record from last season.
So there are Groups A, B and C in the West and East, respectively.
Group Play: Teams play one game against the other four teams in their group.
Eight teams advance: The six group winners plus two wildcards — the team from each conference with the best record in Group Play that finished second in its group.
Knockout Rounds: Single-elimination play begins with the Quarterfinals (Monday, Dec. 4 and Tuesday, Dec. 5), Semifinals (Thursday, Dec. 7) and Championship (Saturday, Dec. 9).
Bonus prize pool money for each player advancing to the Knockout Round
Winning team of Championship: $500,000 each
Losing team of Championship: $200,000 each
Losing team of Semifinals: $100,000 each
Losing team of Quarterfinals: $50,000 each
The semifinals and championship will be held in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena.
And so, 28 teams will play six games as part of the tournament; the two teams that reach in the finals will play one more than everyone else, so 83 for the season.
For the 22 teams that do not advance to the quarterfinals, they will each play two regular-season games (one at home and one away) on Dec. 6 and Dec. 8.
If you’re overwhelmed, don’t feel bad. It’s a lot. That’s a big hurdle for the league to overcome as they introduce this new promotion.
The NBA is trying to make this a thing, something special not only for fans but also significant and meaningful for players to get up for during the early portion of the schedule. They first announced the format during a TV special prior to summer league games in primetime on July 8.
Like most of us, players are still trying to learn and understand the new format. They are all aware of it, along with the possible prize pool, but still sorting out the details.
However, early impressions are positive.
“We haven’t really talked about it much,” second-year guard Andrew Nembhard said at summer league.
“It’s honestly exciting to me. It gives more excitement to the game. I think it makes the games a little bit more competitive early in the season. I think it’s going to be interesting for the fans. I love it. I’m super competitive so something like that adds something to the fire.”
I think Nembhard speaks for the majority of his teammates. Most of the roster has never experienced the playoffs and so this should add to the intensity of regular-season games.
Players like Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield and Bennedict Mathurin are uber competitive and hate to lose, even in a post-practice shooting competition. Haliburton and Hield are continuing to keep a running tally on their dunks during World Cup play so yes, this in-season tournament falls right in line.
This is a group that is motivated to compete for — well, anything.
“100%,” Nembhard replied with a smile. “I think that brings your team closer together, especially putting you in certain situations early in the season where you’re really competing for something that matters a little bit more than a Tuesday regular-season game. I think it’s exciting.”
I asked Jannero Pargo about new experiment as well. He played in the NBA and overseas. He’s now a player development coach for the Pacers, he coached the Summer Pacers and he’s very close with the players.
“If I think back to my playing days, if you know me as a person — I love to play the game of basketball,” he said. “I’m up for playing 102 games in one season. This is what we do. We play basketball, we get paid a lot of money for it so anytime you get a chance to play more games I’m for it.”
Commissioner Adam Silver has referenced soccer overseas many times and how they play for multiple championships each season. The difference here, however, is that it’s all the same teams involved. Perhaps in the future, they could include outside teams such as the top team in Europe, the Australian Basketball League, etc. That’s complicated though.
“If you study the Premier League and the soccer leagues internationally, the structure with the four trophies is pretty compelling,” Carlisle added. “Pretty grueling, but pretty compelling. This would, in essence, add a second trophy.
“I believe that this is gonna be a very positive thing. There will be some real motivation with it. In the midst of an 82-game grind, you’re gonna have another thing that’s kind of percolating there that I think is gonna capture a lot of attention.”