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Charlotte Hornets center Bismack Biyombo knows the economic benefit of the play-in tournament for the NBA.
However, Biyombo doesn’t favor the format because it diminishes the value of regular-season competition.
The NBA will decide the last two playoff spots in each conference this season by having teams with the seventh- through 10th-best records play a brief tournament May 18-21. To Biyombo, that lessens regular-season results, because a team that gets hot for a week could replace a team with a far superior record in the playoff draw.
“For the league, it’s great. But as far as competition, you put certain people at a disadvantage,” said Biyombo, a nine-year NBA veteran and an officer in the players association. “There are teams that are going to ease their way into the season, hoping that toward the end of the season, they can hang around the 10th spot so they can (get into) that play-in tournament ...
“Everybody has their own opinion on this, but I never agree with it.”
The Hornets currently are eighth in the Eastern Conference standings at 32-33. Prior to last season, the top eight teams in each conference automatically qualified for a best-of-seven playoff series.
The league added a different play-in format for the pandemic-related bubble that completed last season. This season, owners approved a one-year experiment in which the seventh- and eighth-place teams will match up in one game to determine the seventh playoff seed. The loser of that game would then play the winner of a game between the ninth- and 10th-place teams, with that winner getting the eighth playoff seed.
Biyombo said he also didn’t consider the format for last season’s bubble — the Hornets and seven other teams were excluded from finishing the season — particularly fair.
But he understands financial motivations in these times.
“The revenue and what (else) it brings to the league — the (television) ratings and all that stuff — is great,” Biyombo said.
The pandemic significantly hurt NBA revenue last season and this season. The most reliable revenue stream is the national TV contracts with Turner Sports and ESPN/ABC. So, similarly to holding an All-Star Game in Atlanta, the play-in tournament provides additional high-viewership games for national TV.
Based on current standings, the Hornets would likely play a road play-in game at Boston, Miami or Atlanta. If the Hornets lost that game, they would host the winner of a 9-10 game. Under current standings, that 9-10 game would match the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards.
Biyombo said regardless of whether the play-in is a good idea, he and his teammates are prepared for this path.
“For our team, we’re going to fight to be in the playoffs, and we’re going to make the playoffs,” Biyombo said, “because we have the desire to fight to be here the whole (way).”
Hornets injury update
It sounds likely the Hornets will get back center P.J. Washington for Thursday’s home game against the Chicago Bulls. Washington had an excused absence from Tuesday’s road victory over the Detroit Pistons. Washington announced Wednesday via Instagram that he became a father.
The Hornets list point guard Devonte Graham (knee discomfort) as doubtful to play against the Bulls. Gordon Hayward (foot sprain), Cody Martin (ankle sprain) and Miles Bridges (health and safety protocols) are all still out.