NBA undercuts WNBA, forces top team to move a game

The NBA has been trying a ton of new things over the last few years.

In 2020, the NBA introduced a play-in game for teams on the cusp of making the playoffs to try to qualify. This past season, the league had its inaugural In-Season Tournament, which is a tournament separate from the playoffs that takes place within the regular season.

Many assumed that the NBA borrowed the format from European soccer leagues, but the WNBA has had its own In-Season Tournament, the Commissioner’s Cup, since 2021.

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The tournament has been rather successful for the league as it’s created a relationship with Amazon since its Championship Game airs exclusively on Prime Video. The league announced that the ratings for the 2023 Championship game doubled versus the prior year, and considering the uptick in viewership for the WNBA this season, that should continue for this year’s championship game on June 25.

The league has also given incentive for its players to play as the teams compete for a prize pool of $500,000, a hefty sum in a league that has struggled to provide its players with equitable contracts.

The WNBA’s Commissioner’s Cup’s format is different from the NBA’s In-Season Tournament, but it certainly helped the NBA to see incorporate its own regular season tournament after watching the success of the tournament of the league that it owns over 50% of.

But taking inspiration from the WNBA is not enough for the NBA to prioritize the WNBA’s Commissioner’s Cup championship game over its own NBA Draft.

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The WNBA Commissioner’s Cup Championship is being moved to another city

The New York Liberty are hosting the Minnesota Lynx in the Commissioner’s Cup Championship on June 25 with a chance to win the tournament for the second consecutive season.

But the Liberty will not be hosting the Lynx at Barclays Center, their home arena located in Brooklyn, NY. Instead, the Commissioner’s Cup Championship will be played at the UBS Arena in Elmont, NY, which is around 20 miles away from Barclays Center.

The reason for the move is because the NBA Draft, which is also hosted at the Barclays Center, is scheduled for June 26 and 27.

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“While we wish we could have brought this game to our fans in our home arena, we are grateful to UBS Arena for accommodating us and providing a world-class venue in New York,” said Liberty CEO Keia Clarke in a press release.

However, the WNBA may be more to blame for this scheduling mishap than the NBA.

According to Front Office Sports, the Liberty warned the WNBA in December about the scheduling conflict as the NBA had already scheduled its draft date. The NBA has held its NBA Draft in Barclays Center since 2013, sans for the 2020 Draft that was affected by the pandemic.

The report said that the Liberty felt like the WNBA “blew off the warning.”

When the warning was initially made in December, there was no assurance that the game would be played in New York. When the Liberty won last year, they defeated the Las Vegas Aces on the road.

But the venue conflict could have still been expected considering the Liberty are one of the top teams in the league. A strong start to the season saw the Liberty clinch homecourt for the Commissioner’s Cup Championship Game with a win over the Washington Mystics on June 9.

However, regardless of who should take the blame for the schedule conflict, the forced move is a rough look for all parties involved as the WNBA continues to fight for equity.

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