If Dennis Schroder or Danilo Gallinari has a gripe over how Adam Silver runs the NBA, the commissioner farms it out to staff. If LeBron James complains, then you know Silver will handle it himself. More often than not, he’ll deliver that response faster than Domino’s delivers your pizza.
James went off on the league office three months ago over a significant change to the postseason. That criticism didn’t change the commissioner’s mind. But Silver at least allowed the future Hall of Fame inductee the chance to make his case.
LeBron James ripped into the NBA over the play-in round
With his team in a 1-6 tailspin heading into the final two weeks of the regular season, James began facing reality: The Los Angeles Lakers were unlikely to climb back into the top six of the Western Conference, leaving them in the purgatory of the NBA’s new innovation, a play-in round for the seventh through 10th seeds. Two of the four would advance to the traditional conference quarterfinals.
“Whoever came with that s— needs to be fired,” James announced, memorably.
James wasn’t the first big name to complain. Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic voiced his misgivings, and Mark Cuban supported his star guard’s take.
The inventor of the quasi-playoff tournament was Evan Wasch, the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball strategy and analytics. For the record, he remains employed.
The Lakers beat the Golden State Warriors, 103-100, in a thrilling play-in opener to advance to the quarterfinals. Then The Memphis Grizzlies KO’d the Warriors, 117-112. The Eastern Conference games weren’t as compelling, but the play-in concept attracted good reviews and TV ratings.
LeBron James gives Adam Silver his approval
He hasn’t gone public with it, but James appears onboard with the decision by NBA officials to renew the play-in for another season. Silver told TMZ.com that he believes James “understands” the purpose for the extra games after the two had a conversation.
“We talked about it,” Silver told the website. “I think at the end of the day, I understand. Especially if you went deep last year and you have that end, 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.”
Adam Silver wants to take another look
An important fact to remember about the addition of the play-in round between the end of the NBA regular season and the start of the playoffs is that the National Basketball Players Association signed off on the experiment before the just-completed season. With each team losing five home games and attendance limited for much of the season, they needed a financial boost that also helped players via a higher salary cap.
Because the previous season ended in early October, the NBA scheduled the 2020-21 season to start and end later than usual. What is normally an 82-game schedule over 25 weeks became a more demanding 72 games in 21 weeks.
“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,” Silver said. “But I’m more open to tinkering with it if necessary.”
If he needs suggestions, we’re guessing he has LeBron on speed dial.