‘Whoever came up with that … needs to be fired’

The NBA’s new play-in tournament has another prominent critic in LeBron James.

James and the Los Angeles Lakers dropped three in a row and six of their last seven after Sunday’s 121-114 loss to the Toronto Raptors. The defending champs have fallen into a tie with the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers for spots 5-7 in the Western Conference. They’re now facing the possibility of falling into the play-in tournament for the seventh and eighth playoff seeds.

Even though he’s just returning from injury, James doesn’t think the Lakers’ seeding is overly important to their title hopes. But he also doesn’t appear to be a fan of the new play-in format.

“It doesn’t matter at the end of the day if I’m not 100%, or close to 100%,” James said. “It don’t matter where we land. That’s my mindset. If it happens we end up sixth or fifth, whatever the case may be, or we end up in the playoff, whatever that thing is. Whoever came up with that (expletive) needs to be fired. But whatever.”

LeBron James and the Lakers are locked in a tense race for Western Conference seeding ahead of the playoffs.

James returned to the Lakers lineup Friday after missing 20 games with a sprained right ankle. Sunday was his second game since returning, but he did not finish. He went to the locker room with 6:42 left after playing 28 minutes.

The Lakers went 8-12 without James. Anthony Davis also recently returned from an extended injury absence, which also contributed to the Lakers’ rough stretch. It’s left Los Angeles little time to make up lost ground.

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