LeBron James has taken a shot at the NBA's newly introduced play-in tournament after the LA Lakers' loss to the Toronto Raptors on Monday.
The newly introduced tournament will have the eighth to tenth ranked teams in each NBA conference play off for the seventh and eighth seeds in the playoffs.
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The new format was approved unanimously by NBA owners prior to the season, but there has been an increasing amount of pushback to the idea from certain players and teams as the playoffs approach.
After the Lakers' loss to the Raptors, which saw them fall to the sixth seed in the Western Conference despite beginning the season as championship favourites, James was unequivocal about his feelings.
"Whoever came up with that s— needs to be fired," he said after the 121-114 loss.
It's not the first time James have voiced his disapproval of the plan - when it was initially floated in 2018, he dismissed it was 'wack' and 'corny', arguing that teams in the top eight at season's end had earned their place.
More worrying for the Lakers is James' reports of soreness in his right ankle, having just returned from the longest stint on the sidelines of his career after a high ankle sprain.
The injury cost him 20 games, and he said he may still take time to fully regain fitness.
“The first half it feels really good, warming up for the game it feels really good, but at halftime it gets sore on me. It feels tight,” James said.
Since the perennial All-Star's return, the Lakers have struggled - the loss to Toronto was their third in a row, and their sixth in their last seven games.
Growing criticism over NBA play-in tournament
James isn't the only prominent NBA figure to speak out about the play-in tournament, with Dallas Mavericks over Mark Cuban also suggesting the idea was flawed.
Despite being one of the 30 team owners to unanimously approve the change, which also received the support of the NBA's Player's Association, Cuban said in April that the concept was 'an enormous mistake'.
Cuban's criticism largely centred around the change coming in during the pandemic-impacted 2021 season.
"In a regular season of 82 games where we aren't playing 30-plus games in six weeks, then it might have been OK," Cuban said.
"But the compression of so many games into so few days makes this an enormous mistake."
Mavericks star Luka Doncic was also not sold on the concept.
“I don’t understand the idea of a play-in,” 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.”
This season's play-in format is expanded from last season's and requires teams seeded seven through 10 to play for the final two playoff spots in each conference.
In the NBA bubble last season, the ninth-place team in each conference could force a play-in if it was close enough in the standings to the eighth-place team. The format made sense amid the upheaval of the COVID-19-altered schedule with teams playing unbalanced regular seasons.
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