Harden, Tucker Dismiss NBA's In-Season Tournament Proposal

Michael Shapiro

The NBA unveiled a slate of potential scheduling changes for the 2021-22 season on Monday, including a 78-game regular season, re-seeding for the conference finals and an end-of-year play-in tournament for the final two seeds in each conference. But the league's final proposal was met with the most resistance to start the week.

The NBA has reportedly proposed an in-season, single-elimination tournament, creating a chance for teams to claim a trophy separate from the NBA Finals, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe. That proposal created a share of skeptics throughout the league, including a pair of Rockets who discussed the idea on Tuesday. 

"We're fighting for an NBA championship, I don't want to play for anything else," Rockets forward P.J. Tucker told the media at the Toyota Center. "It's like a consolation or something? I don't know. You play games to win an NBA championship, period.”

James Harden took a more concise approach to addressing the potential schedule change. 

"Are we in college?" Harden asked rhetorically. 

The NBA's in-season tournament idea isn't a completely original concept. League's throughout Europe host multiple tournaments and cups per year, a system familiar to Mike D'Antoni. Houston's head coach noted his experience with the tournaments from his playing career in Europe, but he noted the significant financial incentives that may be necessary to incite enthusiasm from players throughout the league. 

"It's an exciting idea, it's exciting for the fans," D'Antoni said on Tuesday. "If they put good enough bonus money [players will care]."

Changes to the NBA schedule are a near-guarantee as the league looks to generate increased interest through the slog of the regular season. But an in-season tournament presently appears to be a bridge too far for the league's players. Perhaps the scheduling changes will go into effect in 2021-22 without an in-season tournament attached.