The Lakers are in a tailspin, and LeBron James says whoever created the play-in tournament 'needs to be fired'

The Lakers are in a tailspin, and LeBron James says whoever created the play-in tournament 'needs to be fired'
LeBron James.Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Images
  • The Los Angeles Lakers suddenly face the possibility of playing in the NBA's new play-in tournament.
  • LeBron James is not a fan and thinks the person who thought of it should be fired.
  • James had previously endorsed the idea of a play-in tourney.

Now that the Los Angeles Lakers face the possibility of playing in the NBA's play-in tournament, LeBron James isn't a fan.

The Lakers have lost six of their last seven games, including their last two in which LeBron James returned from an ankle injury that kept him out for 20 games.

Following a 121-114 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, James told reporters that it's most important for him to be healthy for the playoffs, regardless of whether the Lakers are the 5th, 6th, or 7th seed, which plays in the play-in tournament.
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He then added: "Whatever that thing is - whoever came up with that s--- needs to be fired."

The play-in tournament pits the 7-10 seeds in both conferences against each other to determine the final two playoff spots. The 7th and 8th seeds play each other, with the winner earning the 7th seed in the playoffs. The loser of the 7-8 matchup then plays the winner of a game between the 9th and 10th seeds to determine the final playoff spot.

The Lakers are currently 6th in the West at 36-28. They own the same record and the 7th-seeded Portland Trail Blazers, but the Lakers hold the tiebreaker over the Blazers. According to Tankathon, the Lakers have the fifth-hardest schedule remaining, and James may miss more time to rest.
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The Lakers are in a tailspin, and LeBron James says whoever created the play-in tournament 'needs to be fired'
The Lakers have battled injuries all season long.Corey Sipkin/AP Images
It's certainly not where anyone expected the preseason championship favorites to be with two weeks left in the regular season. The Lakers have battled injuries all season long, with Anthony Davis and James missing extended time from February to April.

It's been a trying year for the Lakers. They won the 2020 championship in the bubble, staying from July to mid-October, only to begin the 2020-21 NBA season in December, the shortest offseason in league history.

They're unlikely to find much sympathy from the around the NBA, however. James' comments on Sunday were met with side-eyes around the NBA world.As many noted, James endorsed the idea of a play-in tournament last season, before the NBA resumed its season in the bubble. (It should be noted, however, that the circumstances were slightly different - James endorsed the idea of letting four teams on the brink of the playoffs play each other for a chance to make it in, rather than going straight to the postseason after the season was abruptly suspended).
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The Dallas Mavericks, now the 5th seed in the West, also bemoaned the play-in tournament weeks ago, when they were the 7th seed.

"I don't understand the idea of a play-in," Luka Doncic said. "You play 72 games to get into the playoffs, then maybe you lose two in a row, and you're out of the playoffs. So I don't see the point of that."

Mark Cuban said the idea was "terrible" in hindsight, citing the stress of playing in must-win games in a compressed season.
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"Rather than playing for a playoff spot and being able to rest players as the standings become clearer, teams have to approach every game as a playoff game to either get into or stay in the top 6 since the consequences, as Luka said, are enormous," Cuban said. "So players are playing more games and more minutes in fewer days."

Cuban's comments highlighted why the NBA is unlikely to fire whoever created the idea (i.e., all 30 NBA team owners): with two weeks left in the season, all of the talk is on the multitude of teams competing for playoff spots, rather than teams in 10th, 11th, and 12th place tanking to improve their lottery odds. If LeBron James ends up in a must-win game in two weeks, the league will be better for it.

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