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Two Sides of Tanking

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

No doubt; there’s been a lot made of “tanking” in the NBA this season.

The assertion that teams are losing on purpose isn’t wrong, however the assertion that tanking is a malicious attempt at putting a fanbase through misery is entirely false. Tanking is a strategic tactic that aids in the construction and rebuilding of a franchise. A franchise abiding to the concept is merely doing what they see as the most proactive thing possible, hoping to obtain the most talented player in the upcoming draft. Because the draft-lottery structure is flawed, or so it seems, tanking is a result of a poorly constructed system that ultimately needs fixing.

The way things have gone for the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic, this season — teams are chomping at the bits to attain the top pick in the upcoming 2014 draft, a draft which is expected to have a pool of NBA talent comparable to the 2003 draft (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade). The Sixers, specifically, have received praise from commissioner Adam Silver for their efforts.

“You look at any business, you look at short-term results and long-term results,” Silver said. “And if you told a business, if somebody told you a business was going to operate on a quarter-by-quarter [basis], you’d say, ‘That’s not the way to operate a business.’ You’d say, ‘You need a strategy. You need to look at the long-term.’ And I think what this organization is doing is absolutely the right thing. What they’re doing is planning for the future and building an organization from the ground level up.

“And so, if you look at what’s happened here over the last several years, it’s badly needed,” he said. “Somebody needs a plan. Somebody needs a vision to win here. And I think that’s what’s happening.”

There’s been no indication that Silver intends to restructure the draft-lottery.

I talked with Drew Cohen, founder of NBArrassing, by way of email and phone — yesterday.

Cohen is a lawyer, a Sixers fan, and not an advocate of tanking….to say the least. He thinks tanking has never been as bad as it is right now, claiming “incentives are flipped. Fans don’t know whether to root for or against their own team. And the result is a shell of a season for fans (and players) — a miserable display that’s nothing short of an embarrassment.”

NBArrassing is a grassroots effort against tanking. It is a people’s petition, although as of now there is little, visible, support reflecting from the project’s homepage. However, according to Cohen; “Hundreds of thousands of people are saying the same thing about this issue (tanking). There’s been no effort to organize. That’s what we’re trying to do. Fans are complaining about tanking, (drafting) system, but their complaints take the form of millions of disparate tweets, comments, emails, posts, etc. There is no mechanism to collate them and organize them in a productive manner.  That’s why we chose the petition mechanism to amplify fans’ voices.”

“People are comfortable organizing politics, but not sports. There’s no culture for that.” Cohen says. “I don’t fault the Sixers fans for wanting to tank, myself included.  They’re just taking advantage of the status quo. What I do take issue with though is a system that incentivizes losing — especially when there are so many reasonable alternatives being promoted outside and inside the league.”

Cohen attended George Washington University Law School and did his clerking at the U.S. Court of International Trade, followed by the Constitutional Court of South Africa. He met Tom Rossmeissl, another Sixers fan who attended Boston College, in Washington DC six years ago, had they had been kicking around the idea for awhile but it had only sprung into action recently.

“This is entirely a grassroots efforts.” Cohen says, “In politics, so-called grassroots efforts around an issue or candidate are backed by huge non-profits/PACs etc. pouring in millions of $$ and leveraging their listserv. We started with 2 people. We’ve been on this for 6 days and we’re only beginning.”

“It was now or never to pull the trigger.”

Corey Hasler is 25 years old, born and raised in Muskego (half hour southwest of Milwaukee). He is a die-hard Milwaukee Bucks fan. Hasler was seen wearing this curious jersey earlier this week at a Bucks home game against the Indiana Pacers. Prior to that, he sent out a tweet that he was wearing the jersey (Customized, and paid for by the organization as a perk of being a season ticket holder) to the game and finished with, “LET’S GET THAT L(oss)!”

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 9.09.25 AMScreen Shot 2014-04-10 at 9.12.00 AM

I got a hold of Hasler by way of email:

I had the opportunity to make a custom jersey for free as part of my season ticket package. I was originally going to get a Giannis Antetokounmpo jersey, but by the time I was supposed to submit my jersey order the Bucks were playing absolutely terrible so I figured I’d spice things up and get something a little more controversial to at least make my trips to the games more entertaining.

Note: The Bucks organization technically paid for my jersey, neither they nor the NBA would authorize the jersey to be made. Instead I requested a blank jersey and had the letters sewn on by a local tailor. I don’t want anyone at the organization to get in trouble.

At the time all the hype was behind Wiggins “being the next MJ or Lebron” and $180 million offer from Adidas, etc. So he was the clearly the best option. I personally am very impressed with Julius Randle and think he will develop into an excellent NBA player and would fit really nice with this current Bucks team. It’s also hard to deny Jabari Parker’s numbers and overall skill which I’m sure will carry over into the NBA; though it sounds like he’s most likely returning for his sophomore year.

Wiggins is still the projected number one overall pick in the draft on most of the lists I’ve seen and he’s definitely shown things that I like and I would absolutely like to have him on our team. With the hype that surrounds him it would definitely get people excited for Bucks basketball again and maybe get us a game or two on ESPN – it’s been a while. Regardless if the Bucks get the number one overall pick or two or three, I think there are a few excellent options in this draft class that I would gladly welcome to this team and city. That being said, I think the whole NBA lottery is rigged and there is no way they will let a small market team like the Bucks land the number one pick in one of the most hyped draft classes in recent history.

Lastly, as far as “tanking” goes, I am not a fan of it.

My jersey is really just for humor purposes only and was never meant to be a “ohhh I hope the Bucks lose all of their games to get this guy.” If the Bucks could have made it to the playoffs this year I would have been ecstatic. I don’t believe that the Bucks tanked on purpose from the start. The team was completely new aside from Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders, John Henson and Epke Udoh. I thought the moves that were made in the offseason were good and I truly believed that the team would be better than it was last year. In a perfect world Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis would’ve stayed in Milwaukee since they were finally getting into a rhythm… But Hollywood Jennings was more concerned with being a Drake groupie than a basketball player and didn’t want to be here anymore and apparently Monta hated Milwaukee so much that he was willing to take a pay cut just to get out of here.

I think Brandon Knight is a better point guard and all around human being. I’ve always like O.J. Mayo, even though he has MAJORLY underachieved this year. Larry Sanders has proven to be a big scrub off the court which is really unfortunate. Giannis will grow and smooth his game out with time, but I think this team is just a piece or two away from being a playoff contender.

It is what it is and they lost a ton of games early and the team really didn’t seem to mesh well off the bat. The season was just too far gone and at some point you just need to cut your losses and look ahead to how to improve the team for the future. I’m still a fan and I still go to all the games.

I DO NOT cheer against my team, but at the same time I am currently not cheering for my team. I’m indifferent. I hope they lose because at this point there is no benefit to winning any more games. They’ve at least made recent games interesting – playing close and then mysteriously letting the game slip away in the last minute or two (although it sure seemed like they were trying to win that Pacers game). I’m okay with them losing and I have been since pre-all star break even though it really makes the games tough to go to. I see the bigger picture and if this is how things were meant to be, at least they happened this year.

Diehard supporters have shown that accepting the fate of tanking is the only available option, as a fan. Based in Milwaukee, SaveOurBucks.com (A website dedicated to keeping the Bucks from future relocation) states that “In order for the Bucks to regain their footing with the fans and the community they need to drastically improve the product on the court.”

SaveOurBucks.com does not suggest that the team loses games, intentionally. However, the site states being competitive enough to qualify for a bottom seed in the postseason does teams no good. Concisely; fans in Milwaukee are tired of remaining mediocre enough to, well, remain mediocre.

It’s safe to say that tanking is something that exists, but is it a trend, small flaw within a system long-ago implemented that has remained operational for nearly 20 years.

It’s abundantly clear that Hasler, in Milwaukee, is a season ticket holder, well-versed in basketball knowledge obtainable by local, and national, media, with conflicting emotions that has reduced him to sarcastically representing one of the only glimmering bright-outlook of one of the worst seasons for a team in basketball history.

Fans like Cohen have proactively assembled and promoted an upsurge against the draft lottery whilst providing multiple, accredited, attainable alternative suggestions and potential solutions as to how to fix the structure.

Can groups moving to change the draft-lottery consolidate enough loyalists such as Hasler and stop tanking? The NBArressing webpage is equipped with a tracker that allows visitors to monitor progress, with the season winding down and the draft approaching by the day, Cohens project has only a limited amount of time to branch out before another year passes by with a flawed structure in place.

The NBA Draft takes place, Thursday, June 26th.

Click this link to be brought to the NBArressing homepage.

  • USA 205

    I think you mean the 2003/2004 draft, not the 2001 draft!

  • Dodgson

    Part of the issue though is that there are a similar percentage of bad teams now as there were prior to the draft… tanking isn’t really that much of a thing. Teams that try to be bad normally stay bad. If a team cannot put together a semi-competent team they are not likely to draft well either. I feel it is a complete non-issue. The only actual fix is to remove the owners/GMs who stink for years in a row (I can only hope the competent owners would go along with that), until then it is just an issue of bad management.

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