Greason: Tanking is sad and shameful
Elizabeth Greason | Friday, February 1, 2019
Please forgive my attempt at an NBA-themed column in advance. I’m no NBA expert, by any means, but I feel like three years into writing these columns, I need to at least dip my toe into the league. So, without further ado, here’s my best shot.
My teams this season have been the definition of dumpster fires. We’ve got the Mets, who have had worse years, I’m not going to lie. I’m not going to complain too much about finishing the season eight games under .500 and 13 games back with a Cy Young Award winner on the roster when the year before it was 22 games under and 27 back.
But then we get to the Giants, who were truly appalling. They won five games. Barely. And that’s with the Rookie of the Year in the backfield.
And currently, I’m stuck rooting for the Rangers — who are sitting right at 0.500, but when they lose, they lose badly, after trading off everyone of importance in the offseason — and the Knicks.
The New York Knickerbockers. Currently the worst team in basketball, the Knicks sit at 10-40 on the season. But much of that is of their own doing, as the Knicks are, along with a handful of other teams in the NBA, tanking.
Tanking is a phenomenon that occurs in the NBA each season when teams realize they’re really terrible at their one job (winning), so they decide to improve their chances of getting better in another way: by losing. All the time. As much as possible. The best at losing wins the tanking game and, by extension, the chance to win the Draft game, getting the first pick in the NBA Draft and hopefully using that pick to skyrocket to stardom the following season. And if not, they do the same thing all over again, eventually building up a team of former college superstars. It’s a sort of “Trust the Process” mentality.
But it’s one I take issue with. The Knicks have lost 11-straight games, some of those by embarrassing margins (Yes, the Mavericks are clearly a better team, but a 24-point loss? Really?) I understand the desire to give up on a season when it’s going poorly. I understand the rationale of wanting to get younger players more minutes and experience when it’s clear it’s already down the drain. And I certainly understand the desire to attempt to guarantee yourself a Zion Williamson or RJ Barrett-like talent on your roster for the coming year in an attempt to turn the tides.
But tanking is also disrespectful to various fan bases and players. Fans pay good money to watch their teams play. It strikes me as unfair to them that they could walk into a game knowing a team or its opponent has already dictated the game’s outcome. I know the argument can be made that it will pay off for them in the long run, but it’s simply not in the spirit of the game. The same argument can be made for players. They’re on a team in order to compete to their best of their ability. Asking them to go out and do anything less goes against their human nature and could, in the long run, make them lesser players.
This season, I’ve become a mid-level bandwagon Timberwolves fan. Now, Minnesota isn’t exactly killing the game. It sits at 11th in the Western conference with a 25-26 record. If the playoffs started today, it wouldn’t make the cut. But it also did the opposite of give up on its season. The Timberwolves have fought in every game, and boy, can I tell you that that is a whole lot more fun to watch than a Knicks team that sits its best healthy player in Enes Kanter for major stretches every game, just to help it lose.
Currently, in the Eastern Conference, the Knicks, the Bulls and the Cavaliers are all battling it out for the worst of the worst. The Knicks even went so far Thursday as to ship Kristaps Porzingis and a handful of others off to Dallas, so there’s another strike. Each squad has its eye on a specific player — more than likely a current Duke freshman — that it wants sporting its jersey next season. Losses are more valuable to them than wins at the moment. Sure, the Cavs might still have something to prove this year, that it can win a game from time to time without LeBron James. But the Bulls and the Knicks have nothing to lose, so for them, it’s just a race to June 20 as their fans just shake their heads in shame.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.