Tanking is a dirty word around the NBA.
The reason is it implies a lack of effort or desire, and no team wants that reputation (or to establish that culture). But it’s also a matter of semantics — you and I might well argue that a team that lets all its good talent walk to build around a young core and get some high draft picks is tanking; those teams would deny that saying they are trying to win, just with a younger core.
Enter the Milwaukee Bucks, who went from a backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings (a pair that mixed like oil and water) to Brandon Knight and Gary Neal with O.J. Mayo handling the ball a lot. The Bucks were the eight seed last season and are unlikely to be that high again.
But don’t use the word taking, as GM John Hammond said at Knight’s introductory press conference, as reported by the Journal-Sentinel.
“Some people use these words like ‘tanking,’ so to speak,” Hammond said… “We’re by no means in that mode whatsoever. We’re trying to remain competitive. I think we can be a competitive team. But also we really want to start focusing on the youth of this team and start talking about things like a championship-caliber team. Can they develop into a core like that? I think they can.
“We’re going to have to have the right kind of people, people that say I want to be a part of that and I’m going to work hard to become that.”
Of course, the right kind of people would be Andrew Wiggins or Julius Randle or Aaron Gordon or some of the other guys near the top of the 2014 draft.
Part of this is just marketing — you don’t want to give fans a reason not to show up for a season, not to watch the games on television.
The Bucks are not going to be good, but they likely are better than a few teams that have, how shall we say, tried much harder to go young. With Mayo and Larry Sanders the Bucks can win a few games. They are not tanking in the “we don’t want to win” sense.
But if they lose a few games this season and get a good lottery pick next summer, that’s not the worst outcome.
As if Golden State was not already a prohibitive favorite Saturday night.
DeMarcus Cousins, who has missed the last two games for Sacramento with a strained back and that will continue Saturday. Our old friend Bill Herenda tweeted it first.
Not only are the Kings 1-6 without Cousins, but they were also on their way to beating Charlotte Monday until Cousins had to leave the game.
Golden State will likely be without Harrison Barnes in this game after spraining his ankle in the last game. Expect Andre Iguodala to get the start, or if interim coach Luke Walton doesn’t want to mess with the bench rotation he could go with Brandon Rush.
Watching Anthony Davis fall to the court clutching his knee, not being able to put any pressure on his leg as he was helped to the locker room, it was frightening Friday night in Los Angeles.
It turns out it’s not that bad. After the game the injury was described as a “knee contusion” and not the serious damage that was feared. Saturday the Pelicans said Davis was good to go.
Whew. Nobody wants to see Davis miss time.
The Pelicans had won three in a row until they ran into the Clippers Friday night. Davis has played better of late — the New Orleans defense is 7.2 points per 100 better when he is on the court — and New Orleans has gotten better point guard play out of Ish Smith.
That is just cruel.
An on-fire Warriors team dropped 44 on the Suns in the first quarter Saturday, and Curry had 19 of those points going 5-of-6 from three. The Suns’ had no defender who could begin to hang with him. Certainly not Ronnie Price, who came in off the bench and got abused for his efforts.
Curry finished with 41 points, never had to set foot on the court in the fourth quarter, and the Warriors improved to 17-0 on the season. Just another day at the office for them.
We tend to think of record streaks having to be in one season, not broken up across two.
But if you can suspend that, the Philadelphia 76ers are now the owners of the longest losing streak in NBA — and major professional sports — history.
With their tough two-points loss to Houston Friday night, the Sixers have lost 27 in a row. The Sixers dropped their final 10 last season and with the loss to the Rockets are 0-17 to start this one.
That bests the 26-game losing streaks of the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers and these same Sixers from 2013-14. Looking across sports, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 1976-1977 also lost 26 in a row, which when you consider the length of the NFL season is pretty embarrassing.
The Sixers struggles are born from a plan by GM Sam Hinkie (and approved by ownership) to get better long-term by being bad now and hoarding draft picks. It’s a strategy that can work if Hinkie nails the draft picks (the book is out on how Hinkie is doing on that front). And they are committed to it through at least this draft.
But don’t think for a second the players and coach are trying to lose.
If you have watched the Sixers play their last few games you know the players are trying hard to get that victory (and almost have a couple of times). The effort is there, they are just outmatched and lack the kind of presence at the end of games to execute under pressure (something a couple of quality, regularly-playing veterans might help, but that’s another discussion). They have the point differential of a team that should have a couple wins; they just haven’t been fortunate. It happens. Go ahead and blame management if you think this plan is an abomination. Just don’t question the desire or effort of the players or coaches, that is not in doubt.
The Sixers play at the Grizzlies Sunday, then have maybe their best shot at a win for a while when they host the Lakers on Tuesday.