NBA Exec Evan Wasch Responds to LeBron James' Play-in Tournament Criticism

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVMay 5, 2021

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 2: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the game against the Toronto Raptors on May 2, 2021 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. 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 Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

LeBron James believes Evan Wasch, the man who came up with the NBA play-in idea, should be fired.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Wasch took the high road amid criticism from James and others within the NBA. 

"Obviously, we welcome feedback from our players and teams,” Wasch said. ​​​​​“But, on balance, we believe the play-in tournament offers more benefits than downsides.”

The NBA adopted a play-in for the final two spots in each conference on a trial basis this season. The play-in will feature games between the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds and Nos. 9 and 10 seeds, with the winner of the former game earning the No. 7 seed and the winner of the latter game playing the loser of the former in a play-in for the No. 8 seed.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and a rash of injuries taking place throughout the 2020-21 season, the play-in has drawn some level of criticism—most notably from James.

"Whoever came up with that s--t needs to be fired," James told reporters Sunday.

James' Lakers have been among the teams most affected by injuries, with LeBron missing 22 games due to a high-ankle sprain and Anthony Davis sitting out 35 games so far this season. The absences of James and Davis have put the Lakers in jeopardy of being in the play-in. They enter Wednesday as the No. 6 seed and currently have a one-game advantage over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Mavericks governor Mark Cuban called his vote in favor of the play-in an "enormous mistake" after star Luka Doncic offered criticism. 

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

Cuban said it was particularly unfair to have a play-in tournament during a season in which teams were regularly forced to sit stars due to the compression of the schedule. He added that the idea could be better executed in a standard 82-game season.