Thursday, April 12, 2007

Tanking vs. Resting

The last three weeks of the NBA season have been a total disgrace. Everywhere you look stars are sitting out with fake injuries as teams are tanking for lottery position. Fantasy leagues are being shredded, the integrity of the draft process is under fire, and all of David Stern's dress codes and age limits look rather ridiculous when teams are basically allowed to go out and lose on purpose.

However, there remains a big difference between losing on purpose and inadvertently losing because you are resting guys for the playoffs. I keep reading things that suggest that the Pistons and Mavs are "tanking" in the same way that the Celtics and Bucks are tanking, just because they are resting guys. Not only is this an absurd thing to say, it also fails to understand the primary problem with what Milwaukee, Boston, and others are doing.

It comes down to providing a service for paying customers. That's the bottom line. People are paying a lot of money to go watch NBA games and when they show up to the arena, they are getting a watered down version filled with bench warmers and D-Leaguers. How can you justify to a Milwaukee fan that you are rolling out a starting lineup featuring Earl Boykins, Lynn Greer, Ruben Patterson, Charlie Bell, and Dan Gadzuric? I mean, that is embarrassing.

A Pistons fan isn't going to complain about seeing Detroit go to an "exhibition season rotation" now that they've clinched the top seed in the East. The reason for this is simple: they get to watch their team in the playoffs. No Detroit fan wants to see a starter risk injury or get beat down with more wear and tear when they have the postseason gauntlet to journey through over the next 2-to-7 months (approximately how long the NBA playoffs seem to last). In fact, most Pistons fans want to see what Jason Maxiell can do with more minutes. They would love to see Carlos Delfino gain some confidence. They are no doubt curious to find out exactly what they have in young Will Blalock.

In other words, the top teams who are locked into playoff seeding actually have an obligation to their fans to do everything possible to prepare for the playoffs, and that usually means getting the unproven guys minutes while resting the studs. To suggest that resting players for the playoffs is the same thing as tanking for ping pong balls (or tanking to keep a pick, like the Hawks are shamefully doing) is just ridiculous.


archstanton said...

Your argument here seems to counter the point that your making. In your "Resting" example why can't you subsitute Boston for Chicago and 'the playoffs' for 'next season'. Perhaps being a fan of a team that has benefited greatly from tanking (San Antonio) biases my opinion, but if I was the fan of one of those horrible teams, I would rather not see my staters suffer a major injury and perhaps get some work in for the younger players on the roster that would benefit them during the next season plus increase the chance of getting a franchise changing player like Oden or Durant.

Also, I don't see the outcry from fans of these franchises. The ones I know are salivating over the prospect of trying to get Durant and Oden, so the argument that the "paying customers" aren't getting what they want is bogus. If these season is already a bust, isn't it logical to do whatever you can to improve next season?

One more thing, when I was buying tickets at the beginning of this season, I puposely avoided buying seats for the last Spurs/Mavs game in Dallas because I knew more likely than not, that the game would be meaningless.

If you want to get rid of tanking, then the only way to do it would be to get rid of meaningless games, but if your team is that bad, then that is impossible cause a lot of those games are meaningless.

Adam Hoff said...

You make a good point. I do contend that there is a difference, especially in the case of all the teams that are NOT going to be the worst or second-worst teams. They are giving up and diluting the product just to get an extra ping pong ball or too. If I got tickets to a game, getting the 7th pick over the 8th pick wouldn't justify seeing such crappy players. But your point is well taken. I gues the only way to solve this is to move the lottery designation deadline way up ... John Hollinger had some good stuff on this over at ESPN.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention, it wrecks tremendous havoc on fantasy basketball teams all over the world.

Adam Hoff said...

Well, obviously, that is the most important part of all.