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#pounditTuesday, July 27, 2021

Luka Doncic disagrees with NBA having play-in tournament

Luka Doncic

If the NBA regular season ended today, the Dallas Mavericks would first have to win a play-in tournament before clinching a postseason spot. Something about that does not sit right with Mavs star Luka Doncic.

After Dallas lost to the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday, Doncic aired some of his grievances about the NBA having a play-in tournament this season.

“I don’t understand the idea of the play-in,” Doncic said, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “You play 72 games to get in the playoffs, then maybe you lose two in a row and you’re out of the playoffs. I don’t see the point of that.”

On Tuesday, Mavs owner Mark Cuban backed up Doncic’s opinion about the play-in tournament.

“I get why the NBA is doing it,” Cuban told ESPN. “But if we are going to be creative because of COVID, we should go straight up 1-20 and let the bottom 4 play in. This is the year particularly to do it since the 10 games cut [from the normal 82-game schedule] were in conference.

“The worst part of this approach is it doubles the stress of the compressed schedule,” Cuban went on. “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 6 since the consequences, as Luka said, are enormous. So players are playing more games and more minutes in fewer days.”

The NBA first debuted the play-in tournament last season in response to the unprecedented circumstances created by the COVID-19 season stoppage and subsequent resumption in the Orlando, Fla. bubble. The format last year saw the eighth and ninth seeds in the Western Conference play in a double-elimination tournament. There was no play-in for the Eastern Conference because no team finished within four games back of the eighth seed.

This year, the play-in tournament format is slightly different. The seventh through tenth-seeded teams in each conference will automatically go to tournament play to determine who gets the final two playoff spots.

The Mavs are currently the No. 7 seed in the West and cannot make the playoffs outright from that spot as they did last season. There is still some disruption with having a 72-game season as opposed to the regular 82. But Doncic and Cuban do have a point in that a play-in tournament makes less sense than it did last season and puts an unnecessary strain on the players. Meanwhile, the top six seeds in each conference will get an extra week of rest before the postseason from not having to go to the play-in.

The NBA does like having the play-in to generate more excitement. But the concept clearly is not popular with everyone this season.

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