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Everything Jazz fans need to know about the NBA In-Season Tournament

Key dates, details, and more

2023 NBA Summer League All-Access Photo by Tom O’Connor/NBAE via Getty Images

The NBA has begun releasing bits of the 2023-24 season schedule this week, with the full schedule expected on Thursday. Today, the league announced the dates of its first-ever NBA In-Season Tournament.

The In-Season Tournament is an innovation from the NBA to keep player and fan interest high throughout a long season. It's been in the works for many years, but this season will be the inaugural attempt. For NBA fans, this is an alien concept. The Playoffs and Finals are the only tournaments we know. Questions are expected. I'll do my best to answer many fans' questions in this piece.

Why should players or fans care about an in-season tournament?

This is probably the most common question going around. It's not a championship. Teams won't be hanging banners for winning this. Why should we care?

It isn't a championship and will not be treated as such. Teams will not be going all-in to win the in-season tournament. Many professional leagues have multiple tournaments, cups, and challenges throughout the year. They don't supersede or even compete with the main championship.

That said, players will be given prize money for their team's performance in the In-Season Tournament. According to ESPN's Bobby Marks, each player in the winning team will earn $500,000. Players to make the quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals will also earn prize money, from $50,000 up to $200,000.

While $500K may not be much for superstars making $30M or more each year, it is still a lot of money for many of the league's players. Eight of the Utah Jazz' current players are making less than $5 Million this season. Half a million would go a long way for them. For example, Walker Kessler is slated to make $2.8M this season. Another $500K would be very significant. Players will care about that prize money.

For fans, there's no prize money to incentivize us to care. Hopefully, the players will put on a show. That's the only way to make fans care. The tournament will create a competitive environment that breaks up the monotony of the regular season and give us something to cheer for.

How does it work?

The tournament begins with group play and then progresses into a knockout round, culminating in a championship game.

Group Play:

All 30 teams have been randomly drawn into groups of five within their conference based on won-loss records from the 2022-23 regular season. Beginning November 3 and continuing through Tuesday, November 28, each team will play four designated Group Play games on "Tournament Nights" – one against each opponent in its group, with two games at home and two on the road.

Utah was drawn into the West group A, along with the Grizzlies, Suns, Lakers, and Trail Blazers. The Jazz will play each of these teams one time during group play. The dates of those games are listed below. Every game during group play counts toward the regular season record. These are both regular season games and tournament games. Group play nights will be every Tuesday and Friday in November, excluding Election night. On those nights, every game will be a group play game.

Eight teams will advance to the knockout round. Those teams will be the six teams with the best records in their group, plus two wildcard teams which will be the teams with the best remaining group play records in each conference. All tiebreakers will be determined using the following format:

• Head-to-head record in the Group Stage;

• Point differential in the Group Stage;

• Total points scored in the Group Stage;

• Regular season record from the 2022-23 NBA regular season; and

• Random drawing (in the unlikely scenario that two or more teams are still tied following the previous tiebreakers).

For more detailed information, refer to the NBA's In-Season Tournament page.

Knockout rounds:

The eight teams to advance to the Knockout Rounds will play in a single-elimination tournament in early December. All games, excluding the championship game, will count as regular season games. Each of the 22 teams that did not advance to the Knockout Rounds will play two games during this time. Those games will be marked as 'TBD' on the season schedule until the Knockout Rounds contestants are revealed.

The Knockout Rounds teams with the best Group Play records will host the quarterfinals and semifinals games. The championship game will be held at a neutral location. For more information about the seeding, tiebreakers, and scheduling, refer again to the NBA's tournament page.

I am very excited about the In-Season Tournament. The NBA's 82-game regular season tends to drag towards the end, with many teams and players saving energy for the playoffs or tanking for better draft lottery odds. This tournament won't eradicate those issues, but it will help. Giving the teams, players, and fans another thing to cheer for is a positive move, and I expect that within a few years, the fans will have adopted it as much as they have the Play-In games. We love good basketball. Any change that adds more meaning to the greatest basketball league on Earth is good.