The NBA has been on a journey over the past decade or so to try and make the regular season more interesting. Every season there are talks about how to get players more invested in the league’s All-Star game. There are talks yearly about how to improve the dunk contest. You even had the NBA even out the draft lottery odds for the worst teams in the league. This was done to lessen teams tanking their seasons. At the end of the regular season, there’s also now a play-in tournament for teams who are just outside of the playoff brackets. All of these measures have been taken to keep games during the regular season more competitive.

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For too long it has been viewed that teams mail it in on too many nights during the regular season. Well, fear not anymore! The NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament is now underway. After some skepticism, it is clear that means are most certainly playing with a vigor not usually seen this early in the season. Teams seem like they actually want to win this thing. Here’s why.

There’s $500,000 on the line for each player who wins this in-season tournament. That’s of course in addition to the bragging rights that come along with the prize. The tournament utilizes select games as “tournament games.” There are no additional games to the regular season, but this tournament adds more emphasis to said games. The tournament is set to end in Las Vegas on December 9th. The final four teams will travel there and add to the spectacle that is Las Vegas.

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In addition to the prize money, and the scheduling of these special tournament games, the NBA also added special courts. That’s right, every team in the league has their own custom basketball court design specifically tournament games. So the whole feel of these events really is a lot different from maybe a typical regular season game.

That was the whole goal in a nutshell though. The players play the biggest role in this success. I see a difference in the energy level players are playing with so early in the season. One of the cool things about the tournament being so early in the season is that most teams are healthy. So, with your best players more than likely available and on the fresher side of things, it makes for great match-ups. There are teams who you didn’t think might make noise during the season that do. It makes things fun, and after all, ain’t that the point?

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My verdict on the in-season tournament is that is a huge win for the league. Teams are competing more for pride earlier on in the season, and I guess extra cash never hurts right? I’m glad that most people’s skepticism has been quelled. Between now and Dec. 9, I simply seek to be thoroughly entertained by this. I behoove you all to sit back and do the same. May the best squad win!