Might Our Cups Runneth Over?

The full 2023-24 NBA season schedule will be released tonight, which despite the oppressive heat wave we are experiencing is right up there with a sign that cooler weather isn’t far off with the fact that school’s back in session and pumpkin spice coffee has returned to of my morning walk haunts (Starbucks, I assume, isn’t far behind).

But in its quixotic pursuit to mirror the NFL in having SOMETHING of significance to talk about in every single month for at least a couple of days, earlier this week details were released on the in-season NBA Cup, which will have the dual goal of giving some meaning to games played prior to Christmas and the potential of a $500,000 payday to otherwise disengaged and load-management oriented players to actually play and justify the significant investment fans make in schlepping to an arena to see their heroes up close and not wanting to always settle for the most recent G League call-ups.

The nuts and bolts, as announced by THE ECONOMIC TIMES:

Six groups of five teams each, three from the Eastern Conference and three from the Western Conference, were randomly drawn based on last season’s records. Each team will play two home and two road games in group play, facing each group rival once.

Those games will be played on Tuesdays and Fridays in November starting November 3, regular-season contests counting as tournament play, except for US Election Day on November 7.

Three group winners and the next-best team overall from each conference will advance to the eight-team knockout quarter-finals round and games on December 4-5. Those winners will advance to the semi-finals in Vegas on December 7 with the championship match on December 9.

Much like the Week One lines for NFL games have already been out, there are already opening lines established for these games and favorites you’re encouraged to place a wager on, legal or otherwise.  The Celtics are indeed already established as the odds-on favorite, motivated and relatively healthy as they are.  But n ot insignficantly connected to this is the fact that 10 of these qualifying games will be played on Black Friday, in effect creating a precursor to the Christmas Day quintupleheader that the league and the ESPN/ABC networks offer as a counter to an increasingly large output of games which the NFL is offering as counterprogramming, and in 2022 outdelivered the NBA handily with.   Interestingly, this year the NFL will debut a Black Friday afternoon game, one that possibly could have playoff implications (Miami at the New York Jets) , and one that will have an exclusive national window on Prime Video.  Certainly, if Tua or Aaron throw for a couple of touchdowns, there’s the hope that inspired fans will grab their remotes and telescope out to the shopping site and perhaps buy a jersey as a present.

And while that’s not an immediate prospect given that the league’s new TV deals won’t kick in until next year, don’t think that down the road some of those 10 games, and the ensuing potential for impulse shopping, might not catch the interest of a platform like Amazon, you obviously haven’t been paying attention to the WNBA and its own version of an in-season cup competition, one that came to climax Tuesday night between the league’s de facto superteam revivals, live and global on Prime Video.

And as luck would have it, the game itself produced an upset and a Big Four sport championship for a team with New York on their uniforms for the first time since Eli Manning conquered the unconquerable in the 2012 Super Bowl.   As CBS  SPORTS’ Jack Maloney reported:

After 27 seasons, the New York Liberty finally have their first trophy. One of the league’s three remaining original franchises, the Liberty pulled away from the host Las Vegas Aces in the second half of the Commissioner’s Cup championship on Tuesday night for a comfortable 82-63 victory. Jonquel Jones was named MVP of the game after putting up 16 points and 15 rebounds.

As the final score indicates, what was supposed to be a showdown between two of the best offenses the league has ever seen did not transpire. It took 3:31 for anyone to score, and 3:48 for anyone to make a shot from the field. Save for a few short runs by each team, that trend largely continued for the rest of the night. Increased defensive intensity from the regular season played a part, but both teams missed plenty of open shots. 

No, it’s not a “real” title.  And because it’s Prime Video, we won’t even get a shred of a clue if enough of an audience showed up to watch over and above the few hundred thousand that watch the league’s regular season games on a myriad of national outlets that ARE measured.  But let me assure you–I was aware it was something more than a “typical” regular season game, thanks to Amazon’s persistent on-site branding and reminders on a day that I needed to make a payment on my branded credit card.  And I’m willing to bet if a Liberty fan showed up, they probably were inclined to perhaps drop a dime or two on a Jonquel Jones T-shirt, more so than, say, were the game on CBS Sports Network or ION.

After all, a cup if one thing, but an Amazon box is a whole ‘nother thang.


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