The NBA In-Season Tournament has been a learning process for everyone, not just fans or media that cover the league. Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff shared on Tuesday before his team's game against the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland's final group stage opponent, that he's loved learning the process and went as far to say that the NBA has been “masterful” in rolling out a new and fairly unconventional idea.
“I think we've found out this is a hell of a thing for the league and it's a hell of a thing for the league,” said Bickerstaff. “You see the excitement around it, and it's one of those things that I think the league has continued to dive into and make better. It's definitely been exciting. It's been fun. Our guys have bought into it, and, I think, it's been more successful that people maybe thought it would be.”
Why Cavs' JB Bickerstaff loves NBA In-Season Tournament
Bickerstaff went on to say that even though fans at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse or watching from home will be tuned in to their Cavs facing the Hawks, they'll be watching other games as well. In fact, every single Eastern Conference In-Season Tournament matchup has implications for Cleveland making it to the knockout stage, making the entire game of basketball even more exciting for fans.
“Now our fans are caring about what happens between Milwaukee and Miami or what happens to Brooklyn or what happens between Charlotte and New York,” said Bickerstaff. “Things that fans would never normally care about and they're now watching those scores tonight and they're driving attention to the league. I give our league a ton of credit since there was skepticism all around beforehand. But, the deeper and deeper you get into it, the more you think about how wonderful the In-Season tournament is.”
For Bickerstaff, the skepticism goes hand-in-hand with Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum implying unwritten rules are being broken due to teams running up point differentials. But with how competitive the overall format is, Bickerstaff believes that there's an opportuntity for teams to not let the usual unwritten rules apply to the In-Season tournament. This is a little surprising that Bickerstaff, an NBA lifer, is so open to change hitting the core values of the Association. But considering that Bickerstaff is one of the world's biggest fans of the game of basketball, him embracing the positive changes implemented by the NBA aren't a bad thing.
Bickerstaff shared with ClutchPoints his only major complaint about the In-Season Tournament are the courts. Although most players dislike the bold and brash colors used by teams, Bickerstaff is more concerned about player safety overall and actually thinks the colors help signify how special the In-Season Tournament is and can be.
If Bickerstaff had to make a minor change, he told ClutchPoints that he would want to ensure players are safe from injury when playing on the special edition hardwood. Otherwise, he encourages the NBA to expand the Group Stage format even more, allowing teams in each group to play each other both at home and on the road, adding even more excitement and intrigue for the fans.
While the In-Season Tournament is still growing, the NBA could adopt some of Bickerstaff's ideas. Either way, the Cavs' head coach is a huge fan of the new format and having more high-intensity basketball available all season long.