If you’ve been wondering what LeBron James thinks about the upcoming play-in tournament which kicks off on May 18th, the wait is over. Just a few nights ago after the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Toronto Raptors, their third loss in a row and second with James being back in the lineup, he was asked about the play-in tournament and preceded to condemn the concept stating, “Whoever came up with that s— needs to be fired.”
And there you have it. The mighty King has spoken. It should be noted that he’s not the first notable name in the NBA to speak out against the tournament. Both Luka Dončić and Mark Cuban have recently echoed a similar sentiment when asked about their thoughts on the subject.
But neither Luka nor Mark Cuban’s comments carry quite the same weight as those of LeBron James. If he doesn’t like something, the league typically takes that to heart. Thus, the play-in tournament may not live to see another NBA season after this one.
And if you’re surprised that LeBron’s opinion on the play-in tournament isn’t favorable, you really shouldn’t be. After all, look at how things have been going for him and the Lakers lately. They went from being right behind the Utah Jazz to challenge for the best record in the West to having the play-in tournament possibly be their only path now to the playoffs.
So, whereas LeBron’s frustration with the process and being in a play-in tournament scenario is understandable, it’s horribly clouding his judgment.
The play-in tournament brings a different and refreshing level of excitement leading up to the NBA playoffs themselves. That means that it’s good for the league overall. It’s already working from a league perspective. Twenty-five of the NBA’s thirty teams are still currently eligible for playoff contention with a little less than 10 games remaining.
Usually, around 12 of the league’s 30 teams are focused on tanking and trying to get the draft lottery to work in their favor during the last few games of the regular season. Teams now have a greater incentive to play hard every night they take the floor.
Moreover, the play-in features a single-elimination format for games which also promotes a more competitive and exciting level of basketball play. How could one possibly find any fault with that? LeBron himself most likely was cognizant of the great competition this would breed ahead of the 2020 NBA restart when he said he was a fan of the league having a play-in tournament to determine the final seeds of the playoffs. So, where’s the enthusiasm now?
Honestly, it’s probably turned into embarrassment for LeBron James. After all, he is the face of the NBA and is still considered by many at 36-years-old and 18 seasons played to be the best player in the league. Thus, this is a hard pill to swallow for him. Be that as it may, no one needs to lose employment behind the implementation of the play-in tournament.
Although the snide remark was most likely made from frustration with how the Lakers season has been unraveling over the last few weeks due to injuries, it makes him look like a hypocrite. It communicates that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander unless your name is LeBron James.
It has many overlooking the heart of a champion display he’s shown by trying to come back early from injury and attempting to will the Lakers out of purgatory because they’re terribly distracted by his condescension.
If the playoffs started today, the Lakers would narrowly avoid the play-in tournament and go in as the 6th seed in the West. That could possibly mean a first-round, juicy matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers.
And although it’s debatable as to whether they want to see the Clippers if LeBron is not healthy, they still want to avoid the play-in tournament at all costs. Having to play one or two win-or-go-home style games against teams like Golden State, Portland, or even Memphis can go south quickly if guys like Steph, Dame, and Ja Morant are clicking on all cylinders.
If it happens, it’ll be scary stuff for LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, but great stuff to watch for many NBA fans.