In a thriving NBA, tanking is the problem Silver can’t solve
NEW YORK — Adam Silver sees successes all around the NBA, yet can’t stop thinking about the teams who aren’t successful.
And he can’t make them try to be.
Tanking is the problem the NBA commissioner can’t solve.
He can’t force every team to try to win when they all know sometimes there’s more reason to lose. And though he understands rebuilding, he loathes losing on purpose.
“Let me add, I find it an incredibly difficult issue,” he said Friday.
He spoke shortly after ties were broken for positioning ahead of the draft lottery, which seemed a bigger priority than the postseason for some teams this season. And as the Philadelphia 76ers head to the playoffs as the hottest team in the league led by youngsters they drafted during multiple seasons of tanking, it’s hard to tell other teams they can’t do it.
No team was punished for tanking, beyond the $600,000 Dallas owner Mark Cuban was fined for his comments on Julius Erving’s podcast that the Mavericks were better off losing, but there were discussions with other clubs.
“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,” Silver said.
He’s hoping to take some of the incentive of tanking away with lottery that takes effect next season. The three worst teams will have 14 percent chances at the top pick, instead of the current format in which the team with the worst record has a 25 percent chance.
This season that was Phoenix, which appears to also be on a multi-season tanking agenda after shutting down healthy regulars last season. Dallas, Memphis, Chicago and Atlanta also threw out some curious lineups that sometimes looked incapable of winning.
The new format may not stop tanking — and could even make it worse in some respects. Teams only need to be third-worst in the league to have the best shot at the No. 1 pick, rather than having to anchor themselves at the bottom.
So Silver said the league continues to look at the issue, but even he senses that more work is going to have to be done.
“We recognize that our goal is 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,” Silver said.
“I certainly wasn’t satisfied, there can only be so much cajoling out of the league office and it’s one of the those things that the last place I want to go as the commissioner is the league office to start dictating minutes and which particular players should be playing at what points of the game, and I recognize that the incentives are not aligned right now that there’s a huge incentive to increase your chances in the draft lottery especially in the old system. As I’ve said we’re switching the system for next year we’ll see how much of an impact that has.”
Other items from Silver’s remarks after the Board of Governors meetings:
Silver said the investigation into misconduct in the Mavericks’ workplace that began after a Sports Illustrated report in February could be wrapped up by early summer. He said the investigation includes every Mavericks employee and any former ones who would make themselves available.
“From everything I’ve heard directly from the investigators, everyone has been completely cooperative,” Silver said. “And by the way, it doesn’t just include interviews. It includes documents, it includes emails. And that’s come directly from Mark Cuban. He’s told the investigators that and he’s told the league office that as well, that he is open book, and he’s demanding himself a thorough investigation. So we’re waiting for the outcome of that.”
There were no formal discussions about changing the way the playoffs are seeded, with Silver saying there isn’t a better current solution. The Competition Committee did review a proposal for a play-in game and he expects further discussion at the summer meeting.
Owners agreed to continue the revenue sharing plan that was instituted after the 2011 lockout through the remainder of this Collective Bargaining Agreement, running through 2022-23. Silver said the goal is to make sure all teams, whether paying or receiving, have the most incentive to be competitive.
“You know, nobody is happy who has to write those checks, but I think, again, they understand the league is no stronger than its weakest team,” Silver said.
Silver said there were positive reports from the meetings that Michelle Johnson, who oversees referee operations for the league, and head of referee development Monty McCutchen with all 30 teams in an effort to sooth friction that seemed to worsen this season.
“So I feel pretty good going into the playoffs that we’ve made some real progress there,” Silver said.