LeBron James Is Not Happy About Prospect of Lakers Being in NBA’s Play-In Tournament

The defending champion LA Lakers are currently seeded at No. 6 in the West

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers on the court in a grey shirt
Minority Boston Red Sox owner LeBron James.
Michael Owens/Getty

With approximately two weeks left in the NBA’s shortened regular season, the league’s playoff picture is still very, very cloudy thanks to tight races in both conferences.

Adding to the confusion is the second edition of the league’s postseason play-in tournament, which requires the No. 7, 8, 9 and 10 teams in both the East and the West to play a miniature round-robin tourney to sew up the final two playoff seeds in each conference.

Losers of six out of their past seven games with the regular season winding down, the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are currently seeded at No. 6 in the West. But LA has the same record as the seventh-seeded Portland Trail Blazers, and the Lakers are certainly flirting with having to take part in the play-in round.

LeBron James, who is back on the court after missing six weeks with a high ankle sprain, is not happy about it. “Whoever came up with that shit needs to be fired,” James said after LA lost 121-114 defeat at Staples Center to a Toronto Raptors team that came into the game 12 games under .500.

To his credit, this isn’t a new stance for James, who also spoke out about the prospect of a play-in tournament while he was still in Cleveland with the Cavaliers before the idea became a reality.

“That’s wack,” James said in 2018. “You’ve got to earn your spot to be in the postseason. No consolation for finishing last. That’s corny.”

NBA executive Daryl Morey, who backed NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s idea of a play-in tournament to qualify for the postseason, mocked what James had to say via Twitter.

Despite James’s misgivings, the Lakers really may end up having to qualify for the postseason via the play-in. Los Angeles will host the Nuggets, who are seeded No. 3 in the West and have gone 9-1 since losing star point guard Jamal Murray, tonight and then have games against the Clippers, Trail Blazers, Suns and Knicks. All of those five opponents are above .500 and battling for playoff position, unlike the team (Toronto) the Lakers lost to on Sunday.

To make matters worse in LA, James — who had 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists in 28 minutes in Sunday’s loss to the Raptors — may not play on Monday due to his ankle.

“I definitely want to get healthy. Not only for myself, but for our team,” James said. “I need to make sure my ankle is where it was before the injury. I’ve got to be smart with it. It doesn’t matter at the end of the day if I’m not 100% or close to 100%. It don’t matter where we land.”

That’s good — because it might be in the play-in tournament.

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