Last year, the NBA tested the waters by implementing a play-in tournament at the end of the season. It was just blind luck that Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors found themselves competing in its trial run.
Needless to say, the play-in was viewed as an enormous success -- and the tournament carried over into this season as well, where Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and the Brooklyn Nets are the new featured team.
Bearing in mind its participants over the past two years, Irving couldn't help but comment on how the league must be feeling about its new addition.
"I think somebody's in the back room hip hip hooraying whoever created the Play-In tournament," Irving said. "Because last year you get Steph and LeBron, this year you get me and KD going against the Cavs in the Play-In game."
The Nets are squarely in the 7th seed in the East, meaning they'll have to win at least one of their next two games to secure a spot in the postseason. They are set to face Cleveland on Tuesday for the 7/8 matchup, and there is no question that it generates a lot of excitement among the fans.
The idea behind the play-in tournament is two-fold. By adding this extra step to the playoffs, the league hopes to incentivize teams and players to put more importance on winning regular-season games. The play-in also provides fans with a highly entertaining, college-style, do-or-die tournament.
So far, it has succeeded on both fronts. But there are those who doubt its value to the league.
"I obviously see the excitement of it," said Lakers owner Jeanie Buss. "If we would have lost two games, we wouldn’t have been in the playoffs at all. And that’s, that’s a tough pill to swallow. When you’ve been in the top eight for the entire season. You never dropped out of the playoff position. But yet, you know, you can lose two games, and that’s what happened to Golden State, they were at the eighth spot, and then they ended up losing to us and then to Memphis and they didn’t make it in the playoffs. I could see where it’s kind of fun for one game, but I don’t want to diminish what happens in the regular season."
Obviously, the Lakers missed out on the play-in this time, but they know what it's like to compete in the tournament, as do the Warriors and (pretty soon) Nets.
As controversial as it may be, the NBA and the fans seem to really enjoy the experience and the test it brings to teams and players.
After all, if the Nets are as good as they want us to believe, winning one of their next two games should be no problem at all.