Tanking remains thorny issue in NBA

Howard Smith/USA TODAYTanking is still a very very thorny issue in the NBA.

As the season comes to a close and the Playoffs slip further and further away for many teams, the temptation to increase the odds at winning the lottery increases. For many in the media and in the league, they see the problem of tanking and "purposeful losing" as a bane to the league's existence. It is something that has worried owners and fans as against the nature of the game and putting a bad product on the floor.

Tempers regarding tanking raised to a bit more of a fever pitch when former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy flatly accused the 76ers of tanking for higher draft picks with some of the moves they made this offseason and at the trade deadline. This was done while Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie was sitting a few seats away at the Sloan Conference in Boston. 

The Sixers are in the crosshairs as they traded away Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner, two of their best players, and got very little in return that they will use this year. The Sixers are building for the future and while Van Gundy called what they are doing embarrassing, NBA commissioner Adam Silver believes it is just part of rebuilding.

I don't agree with Coach Van Gundy at all. I just came from the locker room, I just spoke to the coach. It's an insult to the entire league to suggest that these guys are going out on the floor and aren't doing their very best to win games.

You look at any business, you look at short-term results and long-term results. 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.

That is what the Sixers decided to do: Completely clear the decks and start from scratch after years of really going nowhere. They did trade away a young star in Jrue Holiday and got back an injured player in Nerlens Noel.

Philadelphia and its new coach entered this season under no illusions that winning would happen.

"Our road map this year was not going to be judged in the win-loss column," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "It's one of those rare years where I can confidently say that. That is a strange line coming from a coach. 

"We have pounded it into our guys that it's about development, it's about standards, it's about habits, it's about not cutting corners to help build a program. Those are our measurements. They are different than others. I think the whole group has followed through in what could be an otherwise difficult year. I think our message is our strongest compass. I don't think we waver from that."

There is the long-term look at the organization and in trying to develop the young players on the roster. That would be the players like Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel. Thaddeus Young clearly does not have a future with the team and it is hard to find anyone else that will be with the Sixers past this season or next.

Philadelphia is just starting. This is a humongous task and this season is a difficult one that has tested everyone's professionalism.

Nobody likes the thought of anyone purposefully losing. It is hard to say that Brown and his Sixers are going out there and trying to lose. They just do not have the talent and Brown has had to rely on players — like Thaddeus Young — who simply are playing above their pay grade and ability.

"It's hard. I bleed with [Thaddeus Young] because you look at that group that had come in earlier, the game changed then," Brown said after his Sixers lost to the Magic last Sunday. "I think they went on a 13-2 run and three of those five guys have played with each other for four days. And it's one of the things I keep talking about. Apart from the youth that we have and the rotating door that we have, there is no familiarity that can come back and haunt you."

Call that tanking or whatever you want. Philadelphia had to clear cap room and decided the best way to win a title was to try to get into the Draft. You have to lose to do that. A bad record does not guarantee a top pick.

Maybe the incentive for winning has to be stronger and the league has to adjust how it conducts the Draft and Draft Lottery.

Philadelphia is only playing by the rules in all its ugly glory.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily