Lebron James on Sunday made known his disgust with the NBA’s new play-in tournament format.
The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers have lost six of seven games, falling to the brink of the play-in tournament as they currently sit in a tie for the sixth seed in the Western Conference with the Portland Trail Blazers. The Lakers currently hold the tiebreak over the Blazers with eight games to play in the remainder of the COVID-abbreviated regular season.
“It don’t matter where we land. That’s my mindset. If it happens to be sixth, or fifth, or whatever the case may be,” James said on Sunday. “Or if we end up in that playoff, whatever that thing is. Whoever came up with that s**t needs to be fired.”
LeBron on Same Wavelength as Warriors Draymond Green When it Comes to NBA Play-In Tournament
On Sunday, James shared his disdain for a play-in format that could require his Lakers team to earn the right to a first-round playoff series should they finish the regular season as the seventh or eighth seed in the West.
One month prior to James’ comments, the Warriors’ Draymond Green shared similar thoughts of his own.
“I hate f***ing losing. So, when I step on the floor, I want to win. But I’ll be 100% honest with you, fighting for a play-in spot does not motivate me,” Green told reporters during a post-game press conference in early April. “Fighting for a playoff spot doesn’t motivate me at all.”
“I want to win every game I play in because I hate losing. That s*** really bothers me. That’s what motivates me, not fighting for some play-in spot,” Green continued after the team’s loss to the Miami Heat. “I don’t really give a damn about the play-in spots to be honest with you.”
NBA Play-In Tournament From Different Angles
When Green made his comments disparaging the play-in tournament, he was speaking after a loss as his team sat in 10th position in the West. At that point, the Warriors were bordering on missing the postseason entirely despite a two-team expansion in each conference.
Green’s point was that he cares only about winning, and that sliding into the last postseason spot in the West wasn’t about to motivate a three-time champion with far more pride than that — not to mention one who has never been short of self-motivation to begin with.
James’ comments come as the reigning NBA Champions continue to reel, even with the return of himself and All-Star forward Anthony Davis off long injury stints.
What James said Sunday feels less like the combatant words of a career competitor, as Green’s did, and more like a complaint from an all-time great that he may have to play an extra game or two to earn the Lakers their place among the league’s final 16.
The Lakers are not likely to fall below seventh in the standings, up 3.5 games over the Memphis Grizzlies with eight to play. However, the Warriors are only a half-game behind the Grizz, meaning if LA slips to #7 they could see Steph Curry and company in the first playoff game.
Whether it turned out to be the Warriors or the Grizzlies, if the Lakers lost that matchup, they would lose the 7-seed and be forced to play the winner of the 9-seed/10-seed playoff game. That game could also produce the Warriors for a one-and-done bout in a contest to decide the final playoff spot in the West, should the teams not meet in the first round of play-in games.
It may be James is just frustrated — as Green was one month ago when he blasted the play-in tournament format, which debuted in last year’s NBA “Bubble” and appears destined to stick around for seasons to come.
There is also the possibility that James fears facing a time- and battle-tested Warriors team, which has had his number so frequently over the years, in a last-gasp effort to make the playoffs and defend his fourth NBA Championship.