While there are many detractors, the In-Season Tournament offers the opportunity for another title, even if a less prestigious one, to be won during the NBA regular season. It offers teams a chance to go play in Las Vegas, a desirable city to potentially spend a week in if you’re a professional athlete.
It also offers a significant financial reward if you win or even make the final. One that the Lakers are well aware of.
The deeper a team makes it into the knockout rounds, the more money each individual player wins. A trip to the quarterfinals is worth $50,000. The semifinals are worth $100,000. Make it to the final and you earn $200,000. Win the whole thing and each player earns $500,000.
And that $500,000 figure is one the Lakers are very aware of.
“500 (thousand dollars) sounds real good,” Anthony Davis said following the Lakers win over the Grizzlies on Nov. 14 when asked if players are bringing more intensity to In-Season Tournament games. “It’s going to bring that juice.”
AD is one of multiple Lakers who, when asked about the In-Season Tournament and any significance it may have, has responded with the exact figure they would win if they win the tournament.
“It feels great because it’s an In-Season Tournament win and we will take that,” LeBron James said in his walk-off interview on ESPN after beating the Suns on Nov. 10. “We’ll take that for sure. I heard there’s $500,000 on the line so we’re going for that. We’re going for that.”
While LeBron and AD have been very straightforward about what they’re eyeing, Rui Hachimura tried to play it coy. Emphasis on tried.
“I think the NBA did a good job of changing the jerseys, the courts, it actually makes me feel like it’s different than a regular game,” Rui said after the same Grizzlies win where AD spoke about it, too. That’s a fair response to the question. But he then tried to beat around the bush unsuccessfully when mentioning the prize money, too.
“We have a prize, too. We have a prize, too,” Rui said through some smiles and laughs. “We get a pretty good prize…We get to play in Vegas, right? I think that’s going to be pretty good.”
Look, I don’t blame the Lakers for being excited about the potential $500,000 prize. If you told me that if I worked extra hard at work seven times in a one-month span, I could make a huge bonus — anywhere from 25-50% of the current salaries of some players — then I would be very focused on that, too!
And there is an aspect of that which is interesting. Damian Lillard recently spoke about wanting to win the In-Season Tournament, but particularly so for the players at the end of the bench where the money could have a much larger impact.
Damian Lillard wants that In-Season Tournament prize money... but mostly for teammates who are not so well off financially: "You got guys on two-way contracts who are trying to earn a stay and that prize in the end could change their family's lives." pic.twitter.com/AQSaQDyQcQ— HoopsHype (@hoopshype) November 16, 2023
There’s no shame in wanting to win the money. The NBA made it a reward for a reason. If it makes the players try a little bit harder and makes the In-Season Tournament a little more compelling, then it’s mission accomplished for the league.
That also doesn’t make it any less funny that the Lakers, when given the opportunity, have immediately referenced that and that alone as their biggest reason to win.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.