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The NBA and Its Tanking Scandal

March 6th, 2018 · 1 Comment · Basketball, NBA

That’s what it is — a “scandal”, yes?

By definition: “An action or event that is regarded as morally or legally wrong and causing general public outrage.”

It is not a “problem”. It is not an “issue”.

It is one big, fat, ugly scandal that is the shame of the National Basketball Association:

Teams choosing to lose — to improve the odds of their getting a higher draft pick, come June.

The most basic of assumptions when watching a sports event — that the participants are doing their best to win — is no longer valid, in many NBA games.

One might think the cries of “something must be done!” would wake league president Adam Silver from his reverie. And maybe it has. A little.

The league today threatened/warned the Chicago Bulls about resting healthy players, and the club apparently has agreed to give more playing time to former starters Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday.

Why the league would pick on the Bulls when they are just one of eight teams in full-tank mode is questionable. Though it could just be something as simple as “looking at their roster” and deciding they are doing even less with more than the other seven teams that have embraced free-falling.

To bring us up to date, here are the eight tankers, from bad to worst:

Chicago (21-42), Sacramento (20-44), Orlando (20-44), Dallas (20-45), Brooklyn (20-45), Atlanta (20-45), Phoenix (19-47), Memphis (18-45).

Note how tight this race-in-reverse is. That is eight teams — more than a quarter of the league’s 30 clubs — within three games of each other at the bottom.

There are clubs that would prefer to lose every night, if they can contrive it.

It is notable that precisely none of those eight teams has won more than three of their past 10 games.

(Mark Cuban, the arrogant ass who owns the Mavericks, was silly enough to say on a podcast that he informed “a bunch” of his players, “Look, losing is our best option.” The league fined him $600,000 for his honesty.)

We could add New York to the tank list, losers of nine of its past 10, but the Knicks screwed up by getting a late start to the party; they are 24-41. Hell, may as well try to win, then.

A couple of teams got off track tonight — Dallas accidentally beat Denver, which is angling for a playoffs berth. Maybe the Nuggets figured they didn’t really have to try, because the Mavericks haven’t been, and the next thing you know it was Mavs 118-107, and both clubs can be considered losers. Especially the Mavs, who had been in the bottom three before … winning? … and zipping north past Brooklyn and Atlanta.

This is awful. It is embarrassing. And it is a problem the NBA refuses to fix, even after years and years of teams angling for the bottom.

The league has to come up with a method for forcing teams to try.

Maybe by “taxing” teams with bad records? You finish with the worst record and you give the league $10 million? Second-worst and it’s $9.5 million. Something like that?

Anyway, it is not my problem to solve, nor yours. It is the NBA’s problem and it is getting worse, not better, and it is an insult to fans who bought tickets under the assumption that their teams might give their all … rather than set up a lay-up line for the opposition and call it “player development”.

A scandal, is what it is.


1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Gene Hiigel // Mar 7, 2018 at 8:32 PM

    In reality, isn’t it just 7 teams in the illegitimate race to the bottom? The Brooklyn Nets at least are losing honestly—that is they are just plain abysmal. The Celtics have the Nets 2018 first round pick so there is no reason for them to try to lose.

    That is the result of the 2013 Nets-Celtics trade that has to one of the worst in NBA (sports?) history. The Nets gave up 3 players plus their no. 1 draft choices in 2014, 2016 and 2018 and a swap of no.1 choices in 2017 in order to get 37-year-old Kevin Garnett and 36-year-old Paul Pierce.

    At least that means I could (if I wanted to) walk 10 minutes to Barclays Center to buy $12 tickets to see the Nets.

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