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As the Cavs battled the Warriors, we checked out the NBA’s new fantasy app

The iOS and Android app was co-developed with FanDuel.

Recode’s Ina Fried tries out the NBA’s new InPlay fantasy app Ina Fried for Recode

Sunday’s Christmas Day matchup between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers served as a rematch of last year’s NBA finals and a chance for Bay Area sports fans to get some revenge.

For me, it was also a good chance to try InPlay, a new fantasy app from the league. The game, co-developed with FanDuel, aims to get people watching TV broadcasts longer. More minutes watched equals more ad dollars for the league and its broadcast partners, who pay big bucks for TV rights.

In deciding to give InPlay a try, I was hoping to answer a couple big questions. One, would this add to my enjoyment as a fan, or would it just be a distraction? And two, is this really likely to be a big deal for either the NBA or FanDuel?

First off, the app (which works on iOS and Android) is not a way to make money, like FanDuel’s paid gaming apps are. This is a free app, with a couple prizes for the top players in the country. Think of it as entering a contest as opposed to going to Vegas and gambling.

The way InPlay works is, you follow along with any of the national TV broadcasts and pick one of the two teams (I chose the Warriors). Then you choose one player to be your guy for each quarter, but you can’t pick the same player for more than one quarter.

How that player performs determines your success in the app. You gain points for things like rebounds, assists and made baskets, while losing points for a turnover.

Well ahead of tip-off I had chosen my lineup: Kevin Durant for the first quarter, Klay Thompson for the second, Draymond Green for the third and Steph Curry for the fourth.

Now the only decision I had to make while watching the game was when to use my “turbo” powers — an option that lets you score extra points for just under a minute on anything good done by your team and player..

Not doing too bad at the end of the first quarter thanks to my pick of Kevin Durant.
Screenshot by Recode

I used two in the first quarter on Kevin Durant, one as he made a rebound and the other as he seemed likely to hit a three. (He missed but was fouled on the next play, sending him to the line).

So here’s my verdict after just one quarter of play: The NBA got the mix pretty well in terms of giving attention-challenged fans (like me) a way to do something additional during the game without distracting them too much from the core task of rooting for their team and yelling at the refs.

I remember the NHL trying a game like this a couple years ago where you had to pick who would win each face-off. It was both too time-consuming and way too random to be any fun.

InPlay is fun so far, but it has a long way to go in terms of getting any significant number of people involved. I could see in the app while I played that there were just a few hundred people playing along with me.

As of the first quarter I was doing pretty well, frequently in the top 20 and ending the quarter at No. 26.

Update, 12:49 pm PT: My choice of Klay Thompson for Q2 did not fare as well, leaving me in 364th place for that quarter. Here’s hoping Draymond Green has a good third quarter and doesn’t get ejected (he already has one technical foul).

1:39 pm: Green did fine and managed to stay out of foul trouble. But I had some glitches with the game freezing up (clock not moving), and the rankings seemed off. I stayed around 430-440 no matter what happened with Green.

I suspect that’s actually the total number of people playing in the public game. If that’s the case, then the NBA has a lot of work to do getting the word out about InPlay.

2:14 pm: Well, that could have gone better, for both the Warriors and my experience with the app. The Warriors lost by a point after leading by 14 earlier in the quarter. As for InPlay, it continued to be glitchy and buggy for me.

“The occasional freezing and leaderboard are bugs that surfaced in this 1.0 version,” an NBA representative told me, adding that the league is “working on it.”

For me, the glitches made what might have been a decent diversion an unwelcome distraction. Plus, I already have the second-screen experience I need: Twitter.

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