Mark Cuban must have felt foolish for being candid. Has anyone else ever paid such a hefty fine for stating the obvious? We know that Cuban is outspoken: He once offered to give $1 million to charity if Donald Trump would shave his head. For talking about tanking to his players, the NBA fined Cuban the amount of $600,000.00.
The Dallas Mavericks owner had commented on Julius Erving’s podcast that losing was the team’s best option. Dirk Nowitzki disagreed with Cuban, with the German player saying that players go out there to win, and tanking is not a culture that one would want to be part of.
With only a few regular games left in the season, it really is the best option of bottom teams to lose games and increase their chances of getting a higher pick in the draft lottery next summer. It will be the last time before the NBA changes the rules, but for now, the worst team has a 25-percent chance of picking first in the draft, the second worst team has a 19.89-percent chance, and the third has 15.6-percent. At the time of this writing, those three worst teams are the Phoenix Suns, the Memphis Grizzlies, and the Atlanta Hawks.
Some time back, the Grizzlies just chalked up a win against a Portland Trailblazers temporarily without the services of Damian Lillard. In another game, Memphis bowed to the Utah Jazz, 107-97 in a game that illustrates how tanking robs the fans of what might have been a close outcome; and tanking confuses and makes a mockery of the players.
It was a game where the Grizzlies actually led 64-60 in the third quarter on the heroics of center Marc Gasol. Gasol would finish with 28 points in some torrid shooting. He thought he would only be resting with four minutes left in the third quarter. It turned out he would be benched during the entire fourth quarter in a move that coach J.B Bickerstaff described as giving a chance for the “younger guys to get better.”
Of course, it is so easy for the Memphis coaching staff to disguise tanking as development of their younger players. This is, however, ultimately to the disappointment of the fans: Gasol has no business sitting on that bench unless he’s injured, or in foul trouble, or thrown out of the game. The Spaniard, a three-time NBA All-Star, deserved more for playing his heart out.
Strangely enough, another player of the woeful Grizzlies, power forward Jarell Martin, has been targeted by a sports website as a poster boy for how tanking hurts a team more than it helps it. Martin is a power forward, and thus expected to perform like one. He is not a guard/small forward. The Memphis coaching staff, in their right minds, would not make him attempt a three-point shot off the dribble. Not in a game that mattered, wherein his team was not tanking. Player development should mean letting guards and forwards blossom in their natural roles, not turn the unlikeliest player into the next Kyle Korver or Klay Thompson.
One Good Part about Tanking
Tanking is part of rebuilding, and one team that is certainly rebuilding is the New York Knicks. For the Knicks to stop heading nowhere as they have been doing in the last number of seasons, they need to do a lot of planning around Kristaps Porzingis.
Planning would include the wise use of their draft picks on incoming players, and what assets to trade, if any. One of those assets could be shooting guard Damyean Dotson: a 3-and-D player, meaning he can hit from beyond the arc, and use his body to defend well. A good strategy to bring his trade value up would be to use him more in the remaining games of the Knicks: Let other teams see what Dotson can do, while also letting the fans – those that the team has left – appreciate what the Knicks may still have to offer when Kristaps Porzingis comes back from injury. That’s not a bad strategy if you have no recourse except to go tanking.
There is a lot of tanking that has gone on in the NBA. It seems like the league tolerates it, so long as it is not done so obviously. A case in point was when the Chicago Bulls was reminded about how the league frowns upon tanking. The Bulls had to have their top players Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday back in the rotation in the team’s remaining games.