The final stretch of regular-season games is always stressful for teams on the cusp of being eliminated from playoff contention, but the pandemic adjusted schedule, which has numerous franchises battling it out in a playoff play-in tournament, is causing players to lash out at the NBA.
Miami Heat veteran Udonis Haslem voiced his brutally honest thoughts on the play-in format on May 4, statements that echoed that of his former teammate, Lakers’ star Lebron James who said, “Whoever came up with that s*** needs to be fired.”
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Like the Lakers in the Western Conference, the Heat are battling it out for a top-six seed in the East. Miami faces serious competition with the Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, the surging New York Knicks to secure a playoff spot and avoid the play-in.
“I don’t want to be in it,” Haslem said. “I don’t want that to be a part of our situation going into the next phase of the season. I’m hoping we don’t have to end up in that situation. And I do think it’s a little silly. I don’t know who came up with it. I’m not an analytical guy. I’m sure they can bring all kinds of numbers and all kinds of stats that’ll say, ‘Oh, this is the best way to do it,’ with this and all kinds of data.”
In the new format, the No. 7 and No. 8 seed teams play each other, with the winner securing the No. 7 seed. The No. 9 and No. 10 seeded teams play against each other, with the loser eliminated from the playoffs. Then, the loser of the No. 7 versus the No. 8 seed game plays the winner of the No. 9 versus No. 10, and the winner secures the No. 8 playoff seed.
“As a basketball player, as a guy who’s been in this league a long period of time and just seen this league grow and so many different things about this league that’s catapulted us to this point that we are today, I think it is taking a step back,” Haslem said.
Both Haslem, 40, and James, 36, experienced the shortest offseason after playing against each other during the 2020 NBA Finals, which made the condensed 72-game season all the more difficult for both the Heat and Lakers.
“Especially after the bubble, and just a shortened offseason, to put teams in position to have to be in a play-in, especially guys like ourselves and the Lakers, who basically slugged it out to the end, and to be here in this situation, saying we might have to be in a play-in, yeah, it’s a little unfortunate,” said Haslem.
Mark Cuban & Mavericks Star Luka Doncic Also Slammed NBA’s Playoff Schedule
While Haslem said, “We’re not the type of team that’d going to whine about it. Whatever you want to do, put it in front of us and we’ll figure it out,” — the Heat’s opponents on Tuesday night have had no problem complaining about the play-in format.
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic said back in April, “I don’t understand the idea of the play-in. You play 72 games to get in the playoffs, then maybe you lose two in a row and you’re out of the playoffs.”
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was quick to back his star player’s statement. Cuban told ESPN:
The worst part of this approach is that it doubles the stress of the compressed schedule. Rather than playing for a playoff spot and being able to rest players as the standings become clearer, teams have to approach every game as a playoff game to either get into or stay in the top six, since the consequences, as Luka said, are enormous. So players are playing more games and more minutes in fewer days. In hindsight, this approach was an enormous mistake.
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