lebron james
Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James voiced his displeasure with the NBA’s new play-in tournament, but instead of complaining he should take notes from the Knicks.

Danny Small

Over the weekend, LeBron James fielded questions about his Los Angeles Lakers potentially slipping into the play-in tournament.

LeBron is hardly the first player to complain about the play-in tournament this season. Although only a few players have voiced their frustration with this new idea, many seem to take issue with it when they are in danger of dropping out of the top six spots. It’s worth noting that James advocated for a similar format last season during the NBA’s shutdown, but clearly, he has changed his mind.

The funny thing is, there is no need for LeBron James to complain about anything in regards to the playoff format this year. Instead, he should simply look to the New York Knicks for inspiration because there is a fool-proof way to avoid playing in these do-or-die games—win in the regular season.

The Knicks began the year with no expectations. Most pegged New York to finish dead last in the NBA. All the Knickerbockers have done is win 37 games to guarantee a winning season for the first time since 2013.

Even when the Knicks were in danger of playing in the play-in tournament, there was no bellyaching from Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, or Tom Thibodeau. Instead of complaining, the Knicks won 12 of their last 13 to move into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

When players like LeBron or Luka Doncic complain about the possibility of playing in the play-in tournament, the only thing we can do is roll our eyes. This was not something that was foisted upon teams at the last second. It was agreed upon prior to the year and we have no sympathy for the whining Lakers.

Granted, the Knicks have not had the injury troubles that the Lakers have this season, but the point remains—just win baby. Of course, LeBron doesn’t need me or the Knicks lecturing him on how to win in the NBA. His resumé speaks for itself.

But rather than calling for someone to be fired, perhaps LeBron and the Lakers should just put their heads down and finish the regular season strong. With LeBron sitting out on Monday night, Anthony Davis led the Lakers to an impressive 93-89 victory over the surging Denver Nuggets.

They jumped up to fifth in the Western Conference and currently control their own destiny as far as the play-in tournament is concerned.

Did the Play-In Fix the Regular Season?

For years, fans have complained about the regular season not carrying enough weight. The games don’t mean anything until the playoffs start, right?

We are finally seeing a compelling playoff chase in the final weeks of the season. Isn’t this what the NBA has been trying to accomplish for years? Out of 30 teams, 24 are still fighting for a chance at the play-in tournament or jockeying for a place at the top of the standings.

Although the current play-in teams in both conferences are separating themselves from the 11th and 12th-place teams, every game matters down the stretch. Everyone is trying to avoid the do-or-die play-in tournament and it has finally brought some juice back to the regular season.

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