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Mark Cuban Criticizes NBA Play-In Tournament, Says It's 'An Enormous Mistake'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistApril 13, 2021

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban celebrates during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Shortly after Luka Doncic criticized the idea of the NBA's new play-in postseason tournament, Dallas Mavericks governor Mark Cuban questioned the validity of the tournament as well. 

Cuban told ESPN's Tim MacMahon that "in hindsight, this approach was an enormous mistake," citing concerns over the NBA's compacted schedule.

He continued:

"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 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 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 6 since the consequences, as Luka said, are enormous. So players are playing more games and more minutes in fewer days."

That followed Doncic's own misgivings with the play-in concept following Dallas' 113-95 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night. 

"I don't understand the idea of a play-in," he said. "You play 72 games to get into the playoffs, then maybe you lose two in a row and you're out of the playoffs. So I don't see the point of that."

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The play-in will feature the Nos. 7-10 seeds from each conference in a mini-tournament before the actual playoffs. The format would feature three one-game showdowns in each conference:

  • Game 1: No. 7 hosts No. 8. The winner gets the No. 7 seed in the playoffs.
  • Game 2: No. 9 hosts No. 10. The loser is eliminated from the tournament and enters the NBA draft lottery.
  • Game 3: Loser of Game 1 hosts Winner of Game 2. The winner gets the No. 8 seed. The loser is eliminated and enters the NBA draft lottery.

The 29-24 Mavericks currently sit at No. 7 in the Western Conference and would be subject to the play-in tournament if the season ended today, joining the Memphis Grizzlies (27-25), San Antonio Spurs (26-26) and the Golden State Warriors (26-28), so it isn't shocking that the Mavs might have some misgivings about the new format. 

The main issue Cuban has with the idea he previously approved—the NBA board of governors voted for the play-in tournament unanimously—comes from the compressed schedule this season after the NBA pushed the start of the season to December after the 2019-20 campaign was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic: 

"In a regular season of 82 games where we aren't playing 30-plus games in 6 weeks, then it might have been OK. But the compression of so many games into so few days makes this an enormous mistake. If we had gone 1 to 16, with the top 12 in, it still would have been rough, but there would have been more separation between play-in and the top 12. This is a season where we have to rest high-usage players. We have no choice. And that can and will have consequences."

New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Hart also spoke out about the compressed schedule Monday with a growing number of stars dealing with injuries:

The latest was Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, who was lost for the season Monday night with a torn ACL.