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.

Thunder’s Enes Kanter: ‘I don’t like Golden State, so I want Cleveland to win the championship’

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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When Kevin Durant left the Thunder for the Warriors, Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter jumped fully on board the pro-Russell Westbrook, anti-Durant bandwagon.

That ride doesn’t stop with his former teammate facing the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

Kanter, via Fox Sports Radio:

I don’t like Golden State, so I want Cleveland to win the championship.

Kanter never misses an opportunity to take a shot at the Warriors – except when Zaza Pachulia laid out Westbrook and stood over him.

Dwane Casey: Masai Ujiri assured me I’ll return as Raptors coach

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Galit Rodan
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Raptors president Masai Ujiri didn’t mince words at his season-ending press conference: Toronto’s playing style had become unacceptable.

It sounded as if he might have been planting the seed for firing Dwane Casey.

But the coach says Ujiri assured him he’d return next season.

Casey on TSN (hat tip: Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic):

I think people mistook Masai’s comments for that. We had a good meeting before that meeting, and we’ve had meeting since then – with all the coaches – as far as plans for next year and the culture reset, which I think every corporation and every team should do periodically to get the culture back in focus and that type of thing. It’s not like we’re in total chaos or anything like that. It’s just good to have roles defined, things we can do better in each of our roles.

We’re doing some good things and some things we can do much better with. And that’s what we’ll plan on doing this summer and also this fall, when we go to training camp.

The Raptors’ offensive rating has dropped from regular season to the playoffs by 8.5, 7.2 and 11.7 the last three years. Their isolation-heavy style is just easier to stop when defenses see it in consecutive games.

The big question: What does Toronto do about that?

It’d be difficult to move on from the two players most responsible for the style, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. DeRozan is signed long-term, and if the Raptors don’t re-sign Lowry, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, they won’t have the cap space to land a comparable replacement.

The best bet is probably changing schemes from the bench and hoping the players can adjust – and maybe Casey can handle that responsibility. Hiring a new coach obviously would been the clearest path to a shake up, but maybe Casey can evolve. I’d want to see a plan from him before committing to keeping him, but maybe Ujiri got that.

Casey has played a key role in Toronto’s improvement, it’s nice to give him an opportunity to coach differently before hiring a different coach.

Kevin Durant: Don’t blame me for Nets, Magic and other teams stinking

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For the first time in NBA history, the NBA Finals will feature the same matchup for three straight years.

Among those responsible: Kevin Durant, who sunk the title-contending Thunder and gave the Warriors an even stronger grip on the Western Conference.

But don’t blame him for a lack of parity league-wide.

Durant, via Sam Amick of USA Today:

“Like I’m the reason why (expletive) Orlando couldn’t make the playoffs for five, six years in a row?” he said. “Am I the reason that Brooklyn gave all their picks to Boston? Like, am I the reason that they’re not that good (laughs). I can’t play for every team, so the truth of the matter is I left one team. It’s one more team that you probably would’ve thought would’ve been a contender. One more team. I couldn’t have made the (entire) East better. I couldn’t have made everybody (else) in the West better.”

Some teams will always be better than others. The Magic, Nets and more were mis-managed before Durant left Oklahoma City.

But I’m not even sure this is the right debate.

Does the NBA even have a parity problem to blame on Durant?

Cleveland and Golden State aren’t traditional powers. Before 2015, the Warriors hadn’t won a title since 1975 and the Cavaliers had never won one. Their ascension is proof of parity – that sound management and a little luck can lift teams from the basement.

Report: Clippers take Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor ‘very seriously’

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Want to laugh off that Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor?

The Clippers aren’t joining you.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Clippers should be concerned. Losing Paul would unravel their entire foundation, dropping them from the fringe of championship contention to out of the title picture completely. It could even help usher out Blake Griffin, who will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer. (To be fair, Paul leaving could also help convince Griffin to stay.)

About a month ago, the Clippers reportedly expected Paul to stay. They even reportedly struck a verbal agreement with him to re-sign before that. But they can’t officially sign him until July, and that leaves the door open for him to leave.

The Clippers should be heartened by their advantages – a prime market and a projected max offer of $205 million over five years.

The most another team projects to be able to offer is $152 million over four years, and San Antonio will have a hard time doing that. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to shed two of those players to clear max cap space.

So, never say never, but the Clippers’ concern might be rooted more in the dire consequences of Paul leaving rather than the likelihood of it.