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Adam Silver Addresses Tanking Issue As A Coach Was Berated By An Owner For Late Season Wins

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[Woj Report] - “I never heard more talk from front office executives frustration with coaches who were winning games they didn’t want them to win.

And owners, I know of an instance of an owner berating, really berating his coach here in the last several weeks of the season for going in and beating a pretty good team on the road, going ‘what are you doing?’ And think about that, that should not be going on.”

So two different stories here that are tied together. The main one to me is this on the Woj Report podcast where Bobby Marks talks about a coach getting berated by an owner for winning games late. I mean, I get it. If you’re an owner and you’re out of playoff contention, you’re in contention for the No. 1 pick. I said that yesterday in the Nets blog. You’re trying to win two things if you’re an NBA team. The championship or a No. 1 pick. Otherwise you end up in the middling territory like the Wizards, the Hawks of old, Clippers, etc.

However, there  is a different sort of conversation when it comes to tanking. You can’t say go out and lose games or just throw games. Instead, you can limit what the coach has available to him. You can rest players, sit them out, put some guys on limited minutes and play younger guys or 2-way contract guys to see what you have there. The front office can sell it as testing out the future and seeing who they want to sign within their system to a longer deal while the coach can still coach.

Just before this podcast came out, Adam Silver recognized that the NBA isn’t ‘there, yet’ when it comes to handling tanking incentives. At the NBA media conference last week, Silver said

‘I will just say we had conversations with several teams about what the product was that they were putting on the floor, and I’ll leave it at that. They were just direct conversations we had with teams.
Well, let me add, I find it an incredibly difficult issue. We are changing the Draft Lottery for next year. That was something that had already been voted on, but we continue to look at the issue. We recognize that our goal was to put the best competition on the floor, and it’s balanced against legitimate rebuilding of some teams. But I know we’re not there yet, and I certainly wasn’t satisfied.’

It’s by far the closest he’s come to flat out saying there’s a tanking problem. But, let’s talk about the lottery reform for a second, because that’s what people will go to. If you missed that news back before the season started, the league passed a vote that would change lottery odds. Currently, the teams with the three worst records have an ascending chance of winning the No. 1 pick, including (No. 3) 15.6 percent, (No. 2) 19.9 percent and (No. 1) 25 percent. The NBA’s proposal would flatten those odds and give the three teams with the worst record the same percentage of earning the No. 1 overall pick, league sources said. Now, the worst record to the fifth-worst record is a gap of 25 percent to 8.8 percent, but new legislation would tighten that difference significantly.

Now, here’s the problem. I think the opposite will happen. You’ll see more teams tank because it can help those middling teams. If you’re an 7 or 8 seed, it could be a logical discussion for an owner to want to pass up the $5 million up front for the playoffs in order to get that 7% chance for a top-5 player, which could then make you a 4 seed the next year. Will it stop teams from fighting for the worst record? Sure. But, it won’t stop teams from tanking, in fact it almost incentives teams even more.

Listen, I have no problem with tanking. It’s part of the game – every game. If you’re rebuilding you want the best possible chance to do so and that is getting a top pick. If you don’t have that top pick you are stuck in no man’s land. Why wouldn’t you tank? If you scream about competitive advantage, isn’t this helping? You’re giving teams a chance to compete in a couple of years rather than just one year? I don’t know what the answer is, besides just accepting that this is going to happen.