Perhaps due to the results they’ve had in it so far, the Lakers have seemingly bought in on the In-Season Tournament. It’s certainly an easier concept to support when you’re having success in it, but the Lakers have spoken positively about the tournament.
LeBron James noted the increase in intensity that has occurred in the In-Season Tournament. Multiple players, LeBron included, have also spoken of the financial incentive of making it out of group play and, specifically, to the semi-finals and finals in Las Vegas.
And none that even mentions the drama that’s come along the way in recent games. Whether it was Draymond Green becoming Ronda Rousey by putting Rudy Gobert in a choke hold or Anthony Davis looking to fight half of the Grizzlies on Tuesday, the league has — both intentionally through the courts and unintentionally as well — had a lot of focus on the In-Season Tournament games.
After the Lakers’ game against the Kings and before Friday’s In-Season Tournament showdown with the Blazers, head coach Darvin Ham gave his impressions on the new addition to the schedule.
“Everyone is aware of the In-Season Tournament,” Ham said. “It’s a great thing for our league. I think it makes for interesting games. Definitely raises the intensity on what would normally be just a normal, run-of-the-mill regular season game. But the bottom line and the totality of the big picture is we need to continuously get better each and every day, each and every game and (In-Season Tournament games are) no different.
“We’re trying to figure out, again, how can we maintain consistent, high-level basketball on both sides of the ball – defensively and offensively – and that process won’t stop. It’ll continue throughout the year no matter what’s happening. Win three in a row, lose three in a row, we’re going to try to extract something, some knowledge and wisdom out of each and every game regardless of the result. And so the In-Season Tournament being infused in these games is great. I think it’s been great thus far. But again, our top priority is try to be the best version of ourselves that we can possibly be.”
The league put a good amount of effort into promoting the In-Season Tournament, but it’s things out of their control that might have made it most relevant. As much as they could say these games carry extra weight, having a Lakers-Suns game between a new-look Suns team and LeBron and Kevin Durant going toe-to-toe is not something the league could have planned for.
Similarly, this week’s shenanigans in the Warriors-Jazz and Lakers-Grizzlies games only served to heighten the stakes. There’s now a focus on In-Season Tournament games and it’ll only grow with spots in the knockout rounds being determined in the coming week before the one-and-done games themselves.
It’s been a stroke of good luck for the league and the Lakers could be the team that benefits from it by winning the whole dang thing.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.