No one was more outspoken in their displeasure with the play-in game last season than LeBron James. As the Lakers tumbled down the standings in his absence, James’ disapproval of the new playoff format increasingly became a talking point.
Ultimately, James and the Lakers did take part in the inaugural play-in game under the current format, downing the Warriors in a memorable game. James’ comments created enough of a firestorm that NBA commissioner Adam Silver talked with James about the matter.
“We talked about it. I think at the end of the day — I understand, especially if you went deep last year and you have that many sort of games on your legs, you’re not looking forward to more games. But I think he understands the context of the league.”
It is interesting that Silver spoke directly with James about the matter, but it’s not surprising that there wasn’t much compromise on Silver’s end on the matter. When the play-in game was the most-watched contest in two years, the case was pretty much closed then as to whether the play-in game would continue into future seasons.
Still, Silver at least maintained publicly that the league would be open to changes to the play-in game format should players not want the current format to stay. However, the current format was approved for this season so no immediate changes would come.
“Well, we would. At the end of the day, the Players Association speaks for the players and they’ve approved this format for next season. So, I think we wanted to get one more season under our belt that wasn’t a pandemic season, so we could really get a sense of how it works. But, we’re open to tinkering with it if necessary.”
While James is in the minority in his disapproval of the play-in game, he does have one noteworthy backer. Also on Wednesday, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss’ comments on the play-in game were published in an article on The Athletic in which she expressed dislike toward it.
It’s worth considering whether Buss and James would have these same feelings if the Lakers weren’t in the play-in game. Would James be as outspoken against the play-in game if two separate teams were playing or would he be tweeting about how great the game was?
Hopefully, the circumstances surrounding the Lakers dropping into the play-in game will be an aberration and no other team will be put in that type of situation again. Regardless if they are, though, don’t expect the league or Silver to make any wholesale changes.