FanPost

Tanking It

Last year the New Jersey Nets limped to 12 victories which was one of the worst seasons an NBA team has ever endured.  Through their first 70 games the Nets had managed to save themselves from the indignity of being labeled as the worst team ever.  Even if the Nets never won another game the rest of the year, by managing to equal the nine wins of the 1973 Philadelphia Team, at least they wouldn't be the sole owner of the worst record ever.   As it turned out, they won four of their last twelve games, and while they didn't end up with the worst record ever, they didn't end up with the #1 draft pick either, even though they had the worst record in the league, by far.  The cruel irony in this for the Nets is that their fans suffered the ignominitiy of losing, and they didn't get the franchise player they had hoped for as their reward. In the speculation that exists whether the Nets were really as bad as their record, the consolation prize for those who would never tank it, is that the Nets didn't get the first round pick if that is what the Nets did, tank it.

As a subject of discussion, tanking it is a sensitive issue that draws strong feelings from nearly everyone with an opinion.  Among fans, as among athletes too, there are probably differences among how far someone would be willing to underachieve to procure a future benefit, like a high draft pick.  As unsound as the philosophy of tanking it is, a future hall of famer can turn around a franchise.  Look at what happened in San Antonio, which had one really bad year in the middle of many good years and ended up drafting T.Duncan, four pretty much unnoticed championships later, I still don't think the Spurs have ever earned the love of the general public for the truly great teams they had.  The Spurs didn't even have the worst record the year they drafted Duncan, but they got the first pick anyway.  So maybe it isn't fair to say the Spurs tanked it, and most people blame the boring style of the Spurs as the reason for the general unpopularity of their championship teams.  However, maybe the sense of justice of those that are on the outside of four championships looking in had something to do with their unpopularity as well.  I'm sure the Spurs franchise and fans have had enough success to not care what others think, I wouldn't.  Anyway, T.Duncan is one of the best players ever and he has done nothing but good things for the Spurs, even if those championship teams were a dud at the box office and did little to generate the admiration of the general public.  R

As I said, there will always be a contingency of the fan base of any franchise that would be willing to see their team tank it if it meant the security of a high draft pick, even without the security that the draft pick would be a player like Duncan.  It may be taboo for a fan to speculate on the wisdom of the unsound philosophy of tanking it, however, for  a franchise to ever admit to tanking it or have that discussion would be strictly prohibited; and if a team did decide to tank it that they would do everything they could do to hide that fact.

There aren't statistics for tanking it.  We can't go back and look at the records and separate the teams that tanked it from the teams that didn't and look at the success rates of the tankers and non-tankers. What would be the point, if it is given that this is a philosophy that has been employed, we can assume that most teams that have tanked it haven't benefited, while maybe one or two teams have ever won a championship because of it.  This is pretty slim odds, and if fans get a wiff of this it decimates the fan base, resulting in a hit in the bottom line, which can affect finances for years to come as it only results in a diminishing revenue and return on investments, esp since basketball is a sport where skills rapidly diminish if they are not tested and honed, which requires someone giving it their all.  Some have speculated that perhaps the Jazz should tank it for a year and get another high draft pick, that this is what the Jazz need because of the perception that they can't attract a difference maker through free agency, nor could they  afford it if they could.  While this perception of the Jazz as an unattractive landing spot for free agents may have merit, does it condone an unsound philosophy that has maybe worked only once or twice?

How much closer will another top 10 pick get the Jazz to a championship, especially after the damage done that losing takes on a team?  As I said, I think fans have different ideas of what it means to support a team.  I think most fans are offended at the thought that they would be duped into supporting a team that isn't giving it their all, while others would be brimming with joy to think some future T.Duncan is down the road.  I think there is a difference between respect and admiration.  Admiration demands respect and you can't have admiration without it, on the other hand, you can have respect without admiration.  Of course, it is best to have both.  I think it's safe to say that there were times last season when the Nets were neither respected nor admired.  The Nets new owner is optimistic he can change things around, but he really has alot to do.  Since he has the money to do it, he just rented out a huge advertising space in downtown New York which seems to be a marketing strategy to change the perceptions that people have of the Nets as being horrible (tankers).  Prohokov wants to steal the Nets fans, but if the perception of the Nets is they possibly tanked, (well I guess the same thing can be said of the knicks, that they tanked, it makes stealing knicks fans easier, never mind), however; if the Nets were trying to change the perception of say Pacers fans and steal them, for example, whom are fans of a team that no one would say tanks it, do you think any Pacer fans would be ditching their admired and respected team for a proven tanker, which is neither admired nor respected.  My guess is few if any.

I don't expect the Jazz would ever tank it, not with Sloan.  It doesn't need to be restated how close the Jazz were to being the third seed and possibly in the WCF; it doesn't really seem to make sense for a team in the position that the Jazz are in to tank it.  The Jazz would never tank it, and since the Utah days, you could make the argument they never have.  As far as the Jazz bottom line is concerned, they've built a nice fan base and increased profitability by having the philosophy of putting the best foot forward.  When people talk about franchises doing it the right way this is one of the things they mean, they mean you try to do it the way the Jazz have done it.

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.

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