Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"Tanking" -- that's a dirty word

Mark Cuban: Why did he even bring up the "tanking" subject? (AP photo)
     I'll get right to the point: When I hear or read about a team "tanking" a game or a season -- and especially if that team is one I'm rooting for -- I find the thought repulsive.
     It stinks. It's wrong. It is against everything I've loved about athletics, and maybe about life: You should always give it the best you've got.
     What is astounding in this "tanking" talk about the Dallas Mavericks the past 10 days or so is this: Mark Cuban, the team owner, seemingly brought up the subject first.
     When he did, some of the Fort Worth-Dallas media -- bless their hearts -- jumped all over it. I know they have a job to do, and analyzing/projecting the team's fortunes is part of that, but to suggest that the Mavericks try to finish among the worst teams in the NBA next season, that's just poor-ass journalism, in my opinion.
     And I've read it, and heard it, more times than I ever care to recently. Heck, once is more than enough.
      Shame on Mark Cuban and shame on those dip-spit journalists. Here is what one wrote (I'm not going to give you his name): " Losing must be the Mavs' top priority for at least the next year."
      OK, so DeAndre Jordan stiffed us big-time. The 7-foot center they needed so badly, who told them he was going to sign with them for a cool $81 million over four seasons, changed his mind and decided he wanted to take his basketball and go "home" to Los Angeles.
       After Jordan gave his verbal commitment to Dallas, Cuban -- who I think is one of the NBA's best team owners, and I still think that -- popped off and said there had been discussions with his front-office people that if they didn't get Jordan, they might try to "tank" the season.
         ("Tanking" -- losing games intentionally or not trying to bring in the best players and have the best roster possible. This, in order to finish near the bottom of the league and get a potential top-three or so draft choice next year to begin rebuilding the franchise.)
         What a disservice to your players, your coach and his assistants, to the league, but most to your fans -- the ones who buy the tickets for games at American Airlines Center.
         The Mavericks' promotion slogan: "We're Going to Get Our Butts Kicked ... Every Game. Come Out and See Us."
         Go ahead and tell Dirk Nowitzki: Look, Dirk, don't make those 3-pointers. Tell Chandler Parsons: We know you're the new face of the franchise, but it's OK if you miss another 25-30 games with injuries. Deron Williams: You don't have to be an All-Star point guard any more. Etc., etc.
          Rick Carlisle is one of the best coaches in the NBA, maybe the best, not named Gregg Popovich. You think someone as competitive and as accomplished as Carlisle would stand for that?
          Seriously? With one year remaining on his contract? He'd walk out of there tomorrow -- and he'd be out of a job for about 5 minutes before another NBA team called him.
           And if the NBA commissioner heard -- or even maybe thought -- a team was losing games intentionally, think he might be concerned about the integrity of the league? Darned right he would be.
          If I were the commissioner, and I thought a team owner was suggesting that his team "tank" games, I would fine that team and that owner into the millions, and what's more, I'd take away the team's next first-round pick, with this message: Tank that!
          Last I checked, I am not the commissioner. Good thing.
         As for DeAndre Jordan, I am not going to pile on and be all that critical of the young man. He had to do what's right for himself and his family. Yes, it was wishy-washy, awkward, immature, rude, but he followed his heart and his confused head -- and he had every right to do that.
         The trouble was the NBA's nine-day moratorium between the start of free-agent "recruiting" and when deals actually could be signed. That span of time is a loophole the NBA needs to fix.
         I read repeatedly that Jordan "owed" Cuban and the Mavericks an explanation, a chance to talk to him (instead of hiding out with his Clippers friends at his home in Houston) and then -- after signing with LA again -- an apology.
        My view: He didn't owe them squat. Sorry. He didn't break any rules.
        Sure, it wasn't kosher. But life -- and the NBA life -- isn't always fair.
        He, or someone, posted an apology on Twitter, and Cuban didn't accept it. My reaction: Who cares? It changes nothing.
        Besides, he stays with a team that is my least favorite to watch of all the NBA teams. Blake Griffin is a roughhouse player; Chris Paul is always gesturing and barking at teammates; and both those guys, plus Jordan, are constantly complaining about officials' calls.
       And we've seen more than enough of Griffin and Paul (Chris and Cliff) on TV commercials.
        Last season they also had Matt Barnes -- who I consider the league's dirtiest player -- and Glen "Big Baby" Davis, who is just as much a brute as he was at LSU. They traded Barnes and picked up Paul Pierce (a darn good tradeoff) and Big Baby is trying to find another team.
         Doc Rivers, the coach, is likeable enough, even as he put the Clippers' spin on the Jordan fiasco, and the owner, Steve Ballmer, might challenge Cuban as the NBA's most visible (and loudest) owner.
         Anyway, there won't be many Clippers fans in Fort Worth-Dallas, certainly not in this apartment.
          I'm only a marginal NBA fan these days, if that. In the 1960s, '70s and '80s, I was quite a fan. But today's players -- so much bigger, stronger, faster and as talented than the guys those earlier decades -- turn me off with their posturing and self-celebrating.
          I don't like how rough many of the games are (the Clippers aren't the only offenders), but I do like when teams play well together, like good passing and great shooters (which is why I watched the Spurs some two years ago and the Warriors this past year).
          Yes, LeBron can play a little, but he's not a player I much enjoy watching.
          I like the Mavericks because they're here, because Dirk has been a pleasure to follow, and because my roommate likes them. As I was watching the free-agency rumors and moves, she reminded me -- repeatedly -- that she didn't care, that "my life is not wrapped up in a basketball team."
          I think she's a good fan; she likes the game, the teamwork. Her fandom dates to Ringgold (La.) High School, which won two state titles while she was there, and to Wilt Chamberlain.
         She's willing to wait until late October to see who takes the court for the Mavs, and she'll learn the new guys and she'll root for them ... and if she doesn't like what she sees, she can turn if off and come back for another day.
         Actually, I went about 10 years without watching a full NBA game. I would catch portions of late-game Mavericks' action on the TV in our office because I did have to edit stories about the team.
         I began watching again -- some -- the past few years because Beatrice does. But she has her own opinions and analysis, and we don't always match. So -- laugh here -- I know when to shut up.
         I don't think I'll accuse of her of "tanking" her fan status.        

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