The Oscars point the undesirable spotlight on … the tanks in the N.B.A.


On Sunday night, Oscars viewers were exposed to an improvised joke from sports radio inspired by distant N.B.A.

Yet it's the kind of back-and-forth, even brief, that makes the league really uncomfortable.

In what was soon to be Spike Lee's most successful evening of professional life, Samuel L. Jackson announced on the Dolby Theater scene in Los Angeles that Lee's beloved Knicks had beaten the San Antonio Spurs at Madison Square Garden to end the loss of a franchise record series of 18 consecutive losses.

Lee, who was close to his first Oscar in competition, seemed to tell Jackson that the Knicks were "trying to break" – talking about the NBA for teams looking to improve their position in the draft as much as possible by loosely losing .

In truth, the Knicks could do nothing – even win – could not diminish the opportunity for Lee. The most famous fan of the Knicks won the Oscar who had escaped for over 30 years and surely knew as well as anyone that only one win, even the Spurs and their decorated coach, Gregg Popovich , would not hit the team too far out of course in his shameless attempt to finish bottom of the standings.

But the exchanges and the waves of conversation on the social networks that followed have thrown the brightest spotlight on a subject that N.B.A. the officials certainly wish not to have surfaced in this way.

Because it is the public discourse surrounding the tanking – which inevitably leads fans as passionate as Lee to long for the defeat of their teams – who has long been considered at the league headquarters as the most undesirable element of the practice.

Tanking, in itself, can be an imprudent strategy, especially as a result of a change of procedure this season. This is the first year since the launch of the N.B.A lottery project. in 1985, the teams with the lowest three totals shared a tiny 14% when they won the # 1 pick in June.

Previously, the team with the worst record had a 25% chance of winning the first choice. But the efforts of Commissioner Adam Silver in favor of the so-called lottery reform have made even worse the worst professional basketball team – currently the Phoenix Suns, who, at 12-50, are a game behind the Knicks (12 -48) – to win the right to (presumably) choose Duke's coveted first-year player Zion Williamson.

If only clear steps were to be taken to try to stifle the persistent tanking speech that is apparently swirling (and loud) around every bad N.B.A. team. "Corrosive" is the word used by Silver at the annual All-Star weekend press conference in Charlotte, NC this month.

"Personally, I do not think it's a long-term winning strategy to rebuild over several years," Silver said. "There is a state of mind that, if you are going to be bad, you might as well be really bad. I personally think it's corrosive for these organizations. "

The Philadelphia 76ers are the rare franchise in a position of divergence. They hoarded a large number of lottery and other commercial assets over a period of three years of intentional losses during the reign of polarization. Sam Hinkie, their former executive director, resigned in April 2016 due to a reduction in basketball authority before he could take full advantage of the futility of his team.

Several of Hinkie's prestigious rookies – Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel and Dario Saric – have not been very successful in becoming the kind of football teams that are organized around them. Ditto for choice number 1 2017, Markelle Fultz, who was selected by Bryan Colangelo, the original replacement of Hinkie. But the two franchised selections – Joel Embiid (of Hinkie) and Ben Simmons (two months after the release of Hinkie) – are now flanked by former All-Star Jimmy Butler and a potential All-Star future at Tobias Harris. Butler and Harris arrived via exchanges that the new Sixers general manager, Elton Brand, was able to win this season thanks to the strength of the various pips that Philadelphia had stored under Hinkie.

It is too early to tell if the silver lottery reform crusade will actually suppress the teams' attempts to think about the Philadelphia model, but it has a chance. The reduced odds of winning the lottery mean that the Suns, Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers, currently the three worst performing teams, all have 86% of the dreaded chances that someone else wins the Zion Contest. in the draw held on May 14th.

It can be assumed that Lee and countless other Knick fans are going to scream less flattering things instead of blaming them if all these losses this season lead to hiring someone other than Williamson.

Since the Knicks are now associated with the 1993-1994 Mavericks, after narrowly avoiding the team's 19-game home defeat record with their unexpected win against San Antonio on Sunday, it's worth remembering what happened to the Mavericks this year. season.

With Jamal Mashburn as rookie star rather than Chris Webber or Penny Hardaway, after the Mavericks lost fourth overall in the previous season, despite the best chances to win the draw, they recorded a record 13 -69.

This is the kind of caveat that Silver, even though tanking discussions persist, can still be used to discourage real tanking. 1 choice.

At least one fan of the Hollywood Knicks finds the idea of ​​tanking into professional sports "a horrible thing to think about." At Garden this season, said Monday in a phone interview: "I'm never happy to see my team lose. I'm in the garden – people go crazy every time they come near to win. Whenever they lose, people shake their heads at halftime. So I'm confused. Why do you come to the game? "

Lee, however, is not the only one to covet Williamson. It's an open secret that the Knicks dream of a gigantic putsch this summer, with more than 70 million dollars worth of salary space they can free; Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are generally considered the two main targets of the Knicks. But make no mistake: the Knicks themselves, not just a segment of the fan base, also dream of Zion – no matter what the story says.

Given the immediate impact on the ground that an extremely talented young man can have, in this five-to-five sport more than any other, it will probably always be so.

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