LeBron James slams NBA play-in tournament: Someone ‘needs to be fired’

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LeBron James is not happy with the creator of the NBA’s play-in tournament.

“Whoever came up with that s–t needs to be fired,” James said on Sunday, according to ESPN, following the Lakers 121-114 loss to the Raptors. His response came after being reminded of the reigning champion Lakers’ 71-day offseason after last season’s COVID-delayed NBA Finals in the Orlando bubble.

At 36-28, the Lakers are in a three-way tie with the Mavericks and Blazers for the No. 5 seed. As the Southwest Division leaders, the Mavericks have the No. 5 seed and the Lakers sit at No. 6 with the tiebreaker over the Blazers. The top six teams in each conference automatically advance to the playoffs, while 7-10 are in the play-in tournament.

James joins the growing number of players, including Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who’ve complained about the play-in format, which was created in the NBA bubble season.

The teams with the seventh-highest and eighth-highest winning percentages in each conference will have two opportunities to win one game to earn a playoff spot.

The seventh and eighth seeds will face off, as well as Nos. 9 and 10. The winner of the 7-8 game will advance to the first round, and the loser will play the winner of the 9-10 game.

James, who returned to lineup on April 30 after missing 20 games with a high right ankle sprain — aggravated the injury in the Raptors loss. He left the game with 6:42 remaining and did not return.

“His ankle is battling some soreness,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said in the post-game press conference. “We decided not to bring him back.”

The Lakers will need a healthy James for any chance to repeat as NBA champions.

“I think our team is predicated on health,” James said after the loss — the team’s third straight and seventh in their last nine games. “That is the number one thing for our ball club. We need to be healthy and we need to be at full strength.”

Following his return in a loss to the Kings, James said he thinks it would be “impossible” to get back to being “100 percent” healthy in his career.

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