BOSTON – It was difficult for players to form a solid opinion of the NBA's inaugural In-Season Tournament before participating in it. But now that they have gotten a taste of the excitement that the new style of competition is bringing to the early part of the regular season, more and more participants seem to be forming a positive viewpoint on its addition.
Jaylen Brown was one of those “curious” players at first, but after experiencing the thrilling way in which they advanced past the group stage with their 124-97 win over Chicago Tuesday night, he seems to be developing into a fan of the new style of competition.
“It's just something new, and I wanted to see how the guys would respond to it – the older guys, the younger guys – to see a review of what would be the feedback, generally, from the players,” Brown recalled Thursday of his initial mindset heading into the tourney. “For the most part, I think everybody was kind of in the same boat; they didn't hate it, but they didn't love it either. But as it's starting to grow, I think people are starting to gravitate to it a little bit more. I think it's been a good thing so far.”
The first three games of group play felt like typical regular-season games, for the most part, with the exception of the bold new courts. But once it got to the fourth and final slate of games when the point differential rule started to come more into play, a new and captivating style of competitiveness was introduced.
Although the Celtics were blowing out the Bulls at TD Garden, they still had to maintain at least a 23-point lead to advance. So they kept their starters in throughout most of the blowout to ensure a large margin of victory. Meanwhile, they also had to keep tabs on other games going on around the league, because other results and point differentials also came into play.
After the Celtics completed their 27-point win, they went back into the locker room and watched the remainder of the Brooklyn-Toronto game, which would help determine the Group C winner. To win their group, the C’s needed Brooklyn to win, but by at least nine points fewer than Boston's margin of victory over Chicago. The Nets wound up beating the Raptors, 115-103, and Boston’s players rejoiced as they won their group and advanced into the quarterfinals.
“It's definitely generated the type of competition, the viewership that the league and the players association was looking for,” said Brown. “So I think that’s a positive.”
Creating a new type of competition also adds extra meaning to the early part of the regular-season schedule. Brown believes that spicing things up in November and December can help keep a team’s competitive mindset sharp.
“I think the In-Season Tournament is going to help us a little bit because the season can get a little mundane,” Brown said. "Eighty-two games, it’s a grind, it gets kind of like monotonous a little bit, game after game. But mixing it up, having something a little bit different, I think it’ll increase our focus levels and hopefully we’re able to keep that maintained throughout the season.”
The competition will only increase as the C’s move into the eight-team knockout stage. Their next IST game will be Tuesday night at Indiana, and the winner of that matchup will move on to the semifinals in Las Vegas.
The team that goes 2-0 in Vegas will be the first IST champion, and Brown is hoping that his Celtics will get to hold that distinction.
“Winning it is in our DNA here in Boston."