Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Recent events in the NBA have suggested
some teams will be tanking the 2013-14 season in order to get higher picks in
next year's draft.
Tanking is such an ugly word. How in professional sports, can a team
purposefully lose games? That goes against the fiber of competition, which is
the driving force of men and women talented enough to practice their craft at
Tanking is when players don't try, or management doesn't play healthy players.
Tanking is not occurring now in the NBA, nor will it next season.
The two main teams associated with the notion of tanking next season are the
Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics. The idea is that both teams will stink
so badly they will enhance their chances at high pick in next year's draft,
which some are already calling the greatest thing in the history of
Accusing these two storied franchises of tanking is misleading. They will not
be good teams in 2013-14, that's for sure, but what Philly and Boston are
doing is rebuilding.
A friend of mine once astutely said, "In the NBA, more than any league, you
need to get really bad to get really good." The theory is sound. The structure
of free-agent rules benefit the teams that have players already under
contract, or teams that play in cities with beautiful weather.
It's impossible for certain teams to lure high-class free-agent talent. The
Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves and 76ers won't get great players to
sign with them. There's no real reason to explain it, other than stars want to
go where they can win championships, and enhance their brand. That happens in
Miami, New York and Los Angeles.
So, with that in mind, the draft becomes the only resource for a struggling
team to improve. Take the Oklahoma City Thunder, for example. They get the
second pick in the draft, select Kevin Durant, get top-five choices in Russell
Westbrook and James Harden and now they're a powerhouse, even if they flipped
Harden for garbage.
Teams like OKC don't have the cash to sustain that group, let alone sign free
agents. They built from the draft, and imagine doing that in next year's draft,
when Andre Wiggins will be the prize, but eight players could be All-Stars.
If building through the draft is how it's done, how can you fault either the
Celtics or Sixers?
Boston amassed 15 draft choices in the next five drafts with their recent
dealings. All it cost them was Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry and
a little flip on draft night.
Garnett and Pierce are going to have their numbers retired one day by the
Celtics. They are both going to the Hall of Fame.
Reality is, the Celtics made the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference with
them this season, and even with a returning Rajon Rondo, that position
wouldn't rise, as the ages of those stars do.
And Philadelphia is now tanking because it shipped Jrue Holiday, a 23-year-
old All-Star point guard, to New Orleans for the rights to Nerlens Noel, who
most thought would be the No. 1 pick in the draft, and a first-rounder in next
Let's dig deeper here and start with Holiday. He is a good to very good
player who will never be great. He's a top-12 point guard in the league who
made the All-Star team because the team needed two guards and Derrick Rose was
hurt. Holiday was even affordable, but the Sixers cleared out that money in a
If the Celtics weren't going anywhere with two Hall of Famers with a
championship pedigree, where were the Sixers going with Holiday? They got
burned badly in the Andrew Bynum deal, and any chance of contending at the rate
they were going was non-existent.
They have Noel, a potential game-changer on the defensive side, and their
first-round pick, Michael Carter-Williams, a 6-foot-5 point guard. Those are
two great pieces, but the very fact they got a first-rounder in next year's
draft was brilliant. It may be protected through the fifth pick, but the
Sixers will have a high pick of their own.
That's because they're going to be dreadful.
That's where the tanking notion comes into play.
The Sixers will have a rotation of Carter-Williams, Evan Turner (who turned
out not to be a cornerstone as the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft), Thaddeus
Young, Noel, Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen, Arnett Moultrie and Jason Richardson,
On talent, that's a bottom-five team in the NBA, no question. But having a bad
roster doesn't mean they're tanking. If Turner and Young start amassing DNP-
CDs, then we can talk about tanking.
New general manager Sam Hinkie has a plan. Why would it be worth wasting money
on Paul Millsap or J.R. Smith or Monta Ellis if the end result of this plan
isn't for years? They should just sign them to play for four years and show
them the door when it comes time to really start winning?
And here's a weird news flash for those who think the Celtics are cheating the
game - they're not going to be as bad as some think. Oh, they'll stink, but
with Rondo, a top-20 player in the league, how can you reasonably accuse them
Disqualify Rondo and the C's still have Avery Bradley, Jeff Green and Jared
Sullinger. All are above-average NBA talents and Wallace might even help.
They're actually taking on payroll in their convoluted attempt to lose games
in order to improve. Wallace will be Boston's books longer than Garnett,
Pierce or Terry will be Brooklyn property.
Has it dawned on Hinkie or Boston's Danny Ainge that, maybe, if their
respective teams are bad, their draft status will improve? Probably, but just
don't confuse shrewdly rebuilding with tanking.
Tanking ... such an ugly word.
- If I had to hazard a guess, I think Dwight Howard goes back to the Los
Angeles Lakers. Everything will hinge on whether the Houston Rockets can shed
enough salary to sign Howard's good buddy Josh Smith. Plus, there are a lot of
perks to L.A.
- Reported free-agent signings I like: Tony Allen back with Memphis; Mike
Dunleavy with Chicago; and David West back with Indiana.
- Reported free-agent deals I don't like: Tiago Splitter back with San
Antonio (four years, $36 million is a ridiculous amount of money); Martell
Webster back with the Washington Wizards (four years, $22 million is
ridiculous, period); and Tyreke Evans (four-year, $44 million offer sheet from
the New Orleans Pelicans is way too much.)
- Movie Moment - I have seen 22 of Entertainment Weekly's recently released
list of the top 100 movies. Hockey editor Dan Di Sciullo has seen all 20 in the
top 20. Yeah, but can he recite every line from "Clue?"
- TV Moment - Speaking of "Clue," checked out "Whodunnit" the other night.
It's a show that's basically a series of murder mysteries. It's flawed badly.
There isn't much clue-wise for the audience member to come up with his or her
theory of the murder. Basically, it stunk, so, of course, I'll be watching
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