The NBA has reportedly been discussing the implementation of a play-in tournament for the final two postseason berths in each conference, but if LeBron James had his way, that idea would come and go faster than Isaiah Thomas in a Cavaliers uniform. “That’s wack,” James said of the possibility of his league adding a pinch of March Madness to its playoff format.
As explained by ESPN’s Zach Lowe last month, the NBA is mulling a four-team tournament in each conference, featuring the squads that finish the regular season seventh through 10th. It would be a two-round event, with the kind of win-or-go-home stakes that make the NCAA basketball tournament such a draw for hoops fans.
The seventh- and eighth-place teams would play a game to determine the seventh seed in the postseason, with the loser of that contest then taking on the winner of a game between the ninth- and 10th-place teams, with the eighth and final postseason berth on the line. The hope would be to add intrigue to the NBA’s late-season stages, create a compelling, revenue-generating product and, importantly, deter some struggling teams from tanking.
That would resemble something of a dream come true for Bill Simmons, The Ringer chief and longtime former ESPN personality who has been pitching versions of the idea for a decade as his “Entertaining as hell tournament.” However, James said Wednesday that, as far as he was concerned, the play-in tournament could just go to, well, heck.
“No, no, no,” James said Wednesday (via ESPN). “That’s wack. That’s wack. Why? You got to earn your spot to be in the postseason. No consolation for finishing last. That’s corny. That’s corny. That’s wack. To play for what? What are they playing for?”
At least in terms of the NBA’s postseason, James is a traditionalist, one who says the current format, in which teams get 82 games to determine which are worthy of the playoffs, is the best format. In theory, as Lowe pointed out, the proposed tournament could help push owners to approve a shorter season, which might appeal to veterans such as James, but in any event, it’s a long way from becoming reality.
Other proposals, such as seeding the playoffs 1 through 16 without regard to conference and eliminating the one-and-done rule, are reportedly considered by the NBA to be have more urgency. The play-in tournament would also need to get approval from the players through collective bargaining, and issues such as the resulting draft order would have to be ironed out.
Still, the tournament apparently is getting some traction in the NBA, whose commissioner, Adam Silver, has been open to ideas about how to make his league more appealing. But if some are eager to take a whack at it, a certain Cleveland-based superstar begs to differ.
“[Make the playoffs by winning the tournament], even if my record is better than yours? Nah, that’s wack,” James said.
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