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Adam Silver says he spoke to LeBron James about play-in tournament, open to tinkering after full season

NBA commissioner Adam Silver

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 6: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the media during a press conference during the NBA All-Star 2021 on March 6, 2021 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

Lakers star LeBron James – who often gets his way on these things – became the leading voice against the NBA’s play-in tournaments.

But NBA owners collectively and the players’ union liked the format, which generated revenue for both sides to split.

So, the play-in tournaments will return next season as the league shifts from a 72-game schedule to a full 82.


when we spoke with Commish out in NYC this week ... he told us he personally spoke with King James about the tourney -- and it sounds like things are allllll good.

“We talked about it,” Silver told us. “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.”

“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, I’m more open to tinkering with it if necessary.”

I’m a big fan of the play-in tournaments. Teams must now finish top six – rather than just top eight – in each conference to directly qualify for the playoffs in the regular season. Finishing seventh is better than finishing eighth is better than finishing ninth is better than finishing 10th. All that stratification makes regular-season games more compelling. Plus, there are now six additional high-stakes games in the play-in tournaments themselves each year.

I don’t see how that will become less advantageous for the NBA with a full season. In fact, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s stated objections to the play-in tournament held for only the shortened season. (More likely, his objections actually centered on Dallas landing near play-in range last season.)

Still, there could be unforeseen complications. Despite widespread expectation the play-in tournaments will become permanent, they’re approved for only next year, and Silver says he has an open mind.