The NBA’s first in-season tournament, the long-developing and significant shake-up to the league’s schedule, announced key dates Monday, giving an early window into where the Lakers and Clippers will be playing during the upcoming season.
The tournament — whose games, with the exception of the championship, will count toward the regular-season standings — begins in November with group-play games. The 30 teams previously were divided into six, five-team groups. Each team will play the others in its group once.
For the Lakers, that leads to a group-play schedule of Nov. 10 at Phoenix, Nov. 14 at home against Memphis, on the road against Portland on Nov. 17, and hosting Utah on Nov. 21.
The Clippers will open Nov. 10 at Dallas, play Nov. 14 at Denver, then finish with home games Nov. 17 against Houston and Nov. 24 vs. New Orleans.
Eight teams advance to the single-elimination knockout round of quarterfinals, semifinals and the championship. Waiting at the end of it all: a trophy dubbed the NBA Cup and a pool of prize money worth around $18 million.
Creating a trophy to play for during the season has been a concept “rumbling around the league office for about 15 years,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver told reporters in July, and was inspired by European soccer leagues that compete in tournaments of varying levels of consequence outside their domestic schedule.
Though every NBA in-tournament game except for the championship will count toward the regular-season standings, Silver also said in July that tournament games will be distinguished visually by different uniform and court designs.
The quarterfinals are Dec. 4 and Dec. 5. Both the semifinals, on Dec. 7, and championship, on Dec. 9, will be played in Las Vegas.
The tournament, in its inaugural run, will warrant adjustments. So will one of its scheduling ripple effects, as some matchups won’t be known until December.
When the NBA releases the regular-season schedule in the coming days, teams will receive only 80 of their 82 games. The 22 teams that do not reach the in-season tournament’s knockout round will fill them by playing two final games against other opponents that failed to reach the knockout stage.
Because quarterfinals will count as the 81st game, the four quarterfinal losers will play each other for their 82nd game. The teams that reach the final four in Las Vegas will reach 82 games.
It leaves the two teams in the championship playing what will be an 83rd game on their schedule, a game that won’t count in the standings but will register in their bank accounts: Players on the title team will earn an extra $500,000 apiece, while the losers will earn an extra $200,000. Players who lose in the semifinals will pull in $100,000 and the quarterfinals $50,000.