NBA bringing back play-in tournament for 2021-22 season

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Sorry LeBron James, but it looks like the NBA's play-in tournament is coming back for one more season, and possibly more.

The NBA and NBA Players Association has agreed to extend the play-in tournament into the 2021-22 season, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The agreement is reportedly expected to receive official approval from the NBA Board of Governors in August.

The NBA introduced the play-in tournament this season after experimenting with a single play-in game for each conference in the bubble during the 2019-20 season. The new format — in which the teams in the seventh through 10th spots in the standings play out three games to determine each conference's final two playoff spots — seemed to deliver exactly what the NBA wanted.

NBA happy with play-in tournament, players not so much

Even before the play-in games started, the prospect of the tournament added drama to the end of the regular season with several teams fighting to avoid the play-in tourney as well as avoid outright elimination. By ESPN's count, 24 of the league's 30 teams had a chance at a play-in spot in the final two weeks of the season.

The new set of games went on to deliver big-time ratings. The much-anticipated showdown between Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors was ESPN's most-watched NBA game since the 2019 Western Conference finals.

For those reasons, it's clear why NBA commissioner Adam Silver wants the play-in tournament to be a permanent fixture of the league's schedule.

May 19, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA;    Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) and Golden State Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson (95) plead their case to referee Josh Tiven (58) in the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
LeBron James wasn't a fan of the idea of a play-in tournament. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

The change wasn't universally well-received, though. Even though the Lakers and Warriors delivered a thriller, several other games were simply not competitive. Adding a few games to an already cramped NBA schedule also might not look as good in retrospect due to the league's injury issues, though next year's schedule should be more spread out.

Additionally, two of the league's most prominent players were outright hostile to the idea of the tournament (though only once their teams were in danger of having to play in it). James infamously remarked "Whoever came up with that s*** needs to be fired," while Luka Doncic said he didn't understand why the league was doing it

Now, it looks like those players are going to have get used to it.

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