Adam Silver says he doesn’t think tanking works

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We haven’t even started the season — he’s not even commissioner yet — and already Adam Silver seems bothered by talking about tanking.

Well, a lot more questions are coming this year, tanking is going to be one of the big topics around the league this season. With a deep and loaded draft next season a number of teams have already started the “we’ll get bad to be good” train — Philadelphia, Utah, Phoenix, and Orlando (plus maybe the Bobcats, except they have just been bad for a few years and they did add Al Jefferson this season). Other teams with slightly better rosters that struggle out of the gate this season will shed assets to get better lottery odds for a shot at Andrew Wiggins and crew.

In an interview with Bucks.com (hat tip to Eye on Basketball) Silver said he is uncomfortable with all this because he doesn’t think it works.

“Number one, I don’t think it works, because culture is critical,” Silver said. “And I don’t think you can build a winning tradition by this undercurrent of ‘‘it’s really better to be bad and you need to be bad to be good.’ I haven’t seen it done successfully around the league. It makes me nervous that it has to be asked, so I recognize it’s something the league has to focus on.”

It hasn’t been successful? Then why exactly is it referred to as the Oklahoma City system? OKC was bad long enough to draft Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden with top four picks in consecutive drafts. That built the foundation of a contender.

It can work and a lot of GMs and owners like it better than feeling stuck in a rut in the middle of the league. You can build from the middle and win if you are smart and a little lucky (see the Indiana Pacers) but a lot of GMs and owners realize that to win in the NBA you need an elite player to get there. If you’re the Knicks or Lakers you can get those stars via free agency, but if you’re the Jazz or Magic you need a good draft.

(Plus, you can sell your owner on the roster being far less expensive for a few years. Owners like that.)

I think Silver swings and misses on the culture issue as well. The Magic and Sixers and every other team out there will tell you they are not “tanking” — they are not intentionally trying to lose games. Their coaches will put together detailed game plans, the players will bust their tails every night to win games, and there will not be a culture where losing is acceptable. That’s not how it plays in the locker room. What we are talking about is a management decision to put less talent (or younger, developing talent) in that locker room.

Tanking isn’t a sure fire rebuild method, but it is one that can work with a few breaks. And anytime you have potential franchise-changing guys coming into the league (and there are potentially multiple franchise changers in 2014) you’re going to see this. Anything you do to the lottery isn’t really going to change that.

Warriors pose for photos with Jahlil Okafor’s dad’s ‘FREE JAH’ shirt

AP Photo/Chris Szagola
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Jahlil Okafor‘s father has not been shy about speaking out on his son’s behalf. NBA players are advocating for the 76ers to grant Okafor, who’s out of the rotation and on an expiring contract, his desired trade or buyout.

When both join forces…

Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry appear to really enjoy Chukwudi Okafor’s shirt. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily calling on Philadelphia to do anything. But they hadn’t to know how it’d be perceived.

It’s easy to predict free agents will avoid the 76ers as a result of the Okafor situation, but few anticipate getting stuck similarly. Players overwhelmingly value money, winning, role and location. If Golden State’s stars are applying any external pressure, it shouldn’t really move Philadelphia more than anything that has already been said and done.

A couple of Lonzo Ball’s triple-double assists look dubious (video)

Harry How/Getty Images
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Lonzo Ball draws outsized attention because his father, LaVar Ball, lures onlookers and because the rookie plays for the high-profile Los Angeles Lakers.

So, when Lonzo gets a triple-double – like his 11-points, 16-rebound, 11-assists game against the Nuggets yesterday – it draws scrutiny.

Mo Dakhil of The Jump Ball:

The NBA defines an assist as a “pass that directly leads to a basket. … An assist can be awarded for a basket scored after the ball has been dribbled if the player’s pass led to the field goal being made.”

I wouldn’t describe either of those passing as leading directly to a basket. Ball’s teammates each hold the ball for a moment after receiving the pass then take two dribbles against set defenses.

But assists are subjective, and the Lakers aren’t alone in offering a home-court scorekeeping advantage.

Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice

So, criticize/laugh at the Lakers. But your favorite team probably manipulates assists in its favor, too.

Robin Lopez and T.J. Warren exchange contact, heated words (video)

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Robin Lopez whacked T.J. Warren in the head while chasing an offensive rebound. Warren didn’t like that, so he ran to the opposite end of the court and shoved Lopez to the floor. A heated confrontation ensued, though it didn’t escalate beyond yelling.

Warren received a flagrant foul, and Lopez was hit with a technical in the Suns’ 113-105 win over the Bulls.

Lakers blow 5-on-1 fastbreak (video)

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Corey Brewer is better at finishing fastbreaks than leading them.

Nice defense by Emmanuel Mudiay, too.

But at least the Lakers won.