Austin Reaves says Lakers youngsters were begging to win In-Season Tournament due to cash prize

Mike Battaglino
3 Min Read
Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers likely had many motivations for winning the first NBA In-Season Tournament, with Austin Reaves revealing that one of them was the financial incentive for some of his less-heralded teammates.

The Lakers indeed captured the inaugural tournament title with an exciting 123-109 victory against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night. Each full-time NBA player on the winning team from that game received $500,000, compared to the $200,000 they would have gotten as part of the losing team.

The difference that was on the line was especially significant to Lakers players on two-way NBA contracts. Those players took home $250,000 for the victory, a 45 percent raise over what they expected to make this season. That’s undoubtedly a substantial bonus.

The league built in those financial incentives to provide additional motivation for the players, and by any measure, the first In-Season Tournament was a resounding success.

The Lakers pulled away in the fourth quarter for the victory, and LeBron James said in the waning moments of the contest that teammates were asking him when they would receive their prize money.

The 38-year-old superstar – who was named tournament MVP – may have had other things on his mind throughout the competition. The point has been raised the James was especially motivated to capture the title in order to add the unique triumph to his credentials when being considered as the greatest player of all time. It is one of the only things he could do that Michael Jordan has never accomplished, for instance.

The fact that the championship game was held in Las Vegas, where James wants to own a possible NBA expansion team, may have been a further enticement. In fact, when presenting James with the MVP trophy, NBA commissioner Adam Silver joked that the title didn’t also come with a new franchise.

The Lakers showed their competitive nature throughout the tournament, and after a somewhat sluggish start to the 2023-24 NBA season, they enter their next phase with a 14-9 record that leads the Pacific Division. Combine that with the goodwill built up and down the roster and monetary windfall, and it certainly looks like even better times may be ahead.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. He remembers the birth of "Showtime" and has always admired the star power the Lakers have brought to the game.