Stop complaining about the play-in tournament

It seems the only players in the NBA who don’t like the idea of a play-in tournament are those who might have to take part in the unique format.

Due to the COVID-19 shortened season, teams in the seven to 10 spots in their respective conferences will vie for a playoff birth as the 7th and 8th seeds. Because there could be an uneven number of games played among teams due to COVID-19 cancelations, winning percentage is being used to determine the standings.

Lebron James has voiced his opinion of the setup, going so far as to say whoever came up with the idea “needs to be fired.”

But it wasn’t that long ago that James was singing a different tune. One could even argue he was a catalyst in the very creation of the play-in tournament.

James is not the only superstar who has voiced a lack of enthusiasm for the play-in. About a month ago, Luka Doncic questioned the need for such a setup.

But what many of these players are not taking into consideration is the fact that the 2020-21 season is unlike any other due to the pandemic. Not only are teams playing less games, they are also playing a dissimilar number of games.

From the NBA’s perspective, any team sitting at the 9th or 10th seeds could, during a regular 82-game schedule, make a playoff push. And on the flip side, teams in the 7th and 8th spot might fall out of the playoff picture come the end of a normal season.

So it makes perfect sense to have teams in the seven to 10 spot in the standings play it out to see which ones earn a playoff birth – just like James argued back in March of 2020 when he never thought the Lakers would find themselves in the predicament they are now potentially having to take part in the play-in tournament.

It’s also great for the fans to watch – who doesn’t love a mini-tournament to prelude the start of the NBA playoffs?

The play-in is scheduled to begin May 18 and end May 21, with the playoffs tipping off May 22.

As it stands right now, the playoff would look like this:

Western Conference

Golden State Warriors (No. 8) at Portland Trail Blazers (No. 7)

San Antonio Spurs (No. 10) at Memphis Grizzlies (No. 9)

Eastern Conference

Charlotte Hornets (No. 8) at Miami Heat (No. 7)

Washington Wizards (No. 10) at Indiana Pacers (No. 9)

The Lakers are sitting at the 6th seed and play Portland tonight. Depending on what happens, we could still see James and the Lakers in the play-in tournament.

Wouldn’t that be ironic?

Photo credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports