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NY Post
New York Post
18 Nov 2023

NextImg:Give the NBA In-Season Tournament a chance before dismissing it as bad idea

So here’s the thing:

I don’t think of myself as That Guy. I don’t ever want to be That Guy — the one who’s stuck in his ways. The one who doesn’t like the kids’ loud new music. The one who’s fallback position is, “Well, we’ve always done it that way.”

As Tony Soprano said, “ ‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of communication.”

(Does it make me close to That Guy by quoting a TV show that went off the air 16 years ago? Man. It’s not easy for this guy to not be That Guy.)

So in the spirit of keeping That Guy at bay, I made a decision earlier this year.

I decided to give the NBA In-Season Tournament a shot.

Oh, I’ve taken some whacks at it (in Vac’s Whacks, as a matter of fact). I believe my exact words were: “I don’t know why the NBA thinks this bonus tournament that nobody seemed even remotely interested in is so groundbreaking. We’ve seen it for years, but it used to be called ‘the NIT.’ ”

(And, yes, I fully recognize that simply writing the letters “NIT” comes awfully close to sentencing a guy to a lifetime of That Guy.)

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) dribbles the ball past Toronto Raptors guard Malachi Flynn (22) in the first half of an NBA In-Season Tournament game at Scotiabank Arena.
USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

But I’ve tried to grow as a sports fan. Honestly, I have. I used to think deciding OT hockey games with a shootout was an outrage; now, I admit, even if I’m just cruising by a Canucks-Kings game and they’re in a shootout, I freeze my channel-surfing till it’s over. I was never a fan of replay. I like replay now, and want it to become even better.

Hell, I even like the ghost runner now.

(You earn permanent induction as a That Guy if you want to come back at me about how glorious it is to sit through a 17-inning Mariners-Royals game in May.)

An in-season tournament?

Look, I have reservations? One of the “selling points” was the fact this mimics the kind of things soccer leagues all over the world have done routinely for decades. You know what else a lot of soccer leagues don’t have? Playoffs. Which is proof that not everything we do in America is dumber than the way they do it on the continent.

This was supposedly going to combat the maintenance protocols that have ruined a good portion of the NBA regular season. Now, anyone with an ounce of common sense knows the real way to combat that is simply to shorten the endless NBA regular season to 70 games, which is more than enough to determine the six worthy playoff teams and four semi-worthy play-in teams in either conference. But good luck asking anyone to absorb with a smile the revenue cut.

And there’s this: we saw an entire baseball season in this town start swirling toward the sewer on the night in March when Edwin Diaz blew out his knee in a World Baseball Classic game that meant nothing to the Mets. If — just spitballing here — Nikola Jokic breaks an ankle in the championship game in Vegas in a few weeks, the state of Colorado may vote to secede from the NBA.

All of that said?

There are some fun elements to this. The courts have been ridiculed, but you know what? Every time you see that crazy court, you know it’s a tournament game. The folks around the league seem engaged by it. And as we get to the Final Four in Vegas, it will be curious to see if coaches adopt playoff mentality when it comes to rotational use and playing guys with minor injuries who might normally take the night off.

I’ve been watching. I’m intrigued. Are you? Are the masses?

Evan Fournier #13 of the New York Knicks rebounds the ball during the game against the Washington Wizards during the In-Season Tournament on November 17, 2023 at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC.
NBAE via Getty Images

I’ll say this, though:

The Knicks played a tournament game in Washington Friday night, and they sure gave RJ Barrett an extra night to recover from his migraine. If that was playoff Game 7, it’s hard to believe he would have sat, and this was, in essence, an elimination game from the tournament. He sat. Maybe even more tellingly, Evan Fournier played. It was less surprising when Ollie took the floor for Hickory High.

Maybe most telling? My friends who are big Knicks fans and would normally stay home on a Friday night to watch them, did. The more casual fans who would’ve done that for an important game? They went to dinner. Or to see “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Or to see the Bonnies lose to Auburn at Barclays Center (they are my friends, after all).

I’m watching. I’m giving it a go. Are you?

AT some point in this analytics-loving world of sports, someone will be able to calculate just how many sour stomachs the father-son tandem of Paul and Nathaniel Hackett has produced for Jets fans. And there won’t ever be enough Pepto Bismol to cover it all.

Nathanial Hackett
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

My take on “Now and Then”: a perfectly fine song, one that would make about 95 percent of all bands that have ever recorded a song quite proud. But nowhere near the top … let’s say, 90 Beatles songs.

My godfather, Steve Vaccaro, passed this week. He was a lover of the Mets, of good music, of generous “Let it Ride” dealers and was, quite possibly, the single-funniest person I’ve ever known. He was one of the good ones, the very good ones. Rest easy, Junior.

Will the Islanders still have a season left by the first of December?

James Schwartz: Is there anyone more deserving the honors that have just been bestowed on the King, Henrik Lundqvist? His jersey up in the rafters is where it should be. I just wish it hung next to another banner.

Vac: My man Brooksie might tell me I’m wrong, but if Rod Gilbert is the all-time most beloved Ranger I think the King has a damn good argument for runner-up.

Hockey Hall of Famer Henrick Lunqvist
Getty Images

Matt Deakin: This year the popular phrase we’ve been consistently hearing from the Yankees, Mets, Jets and Giants is “we have to do better.” That is code for “we stink.”

Vac: I believe we have our sequel to “The Imitation Game.”

@drschnip: Last time the Jets scored a touchdown Bugsy Siegel was running Vegas.

@MikeVacc: I think it may have still been a desert stopover for GIs coming back from the war.

Richard Siegelman: Choosing a baseball manager named “Mendoza” is not the most promising of moves, since the infamous “Mendoza Line” is .200. Luckily Carlos Mendoza hit .232 in his minor league career.

Vac: I’d be more wary of names like “Callaway” to be honest.