Nine franchises are racing to the bottom of the league’s standings, but NBA commissioner Adam Silver has warned the teams the league is watching for overt tanking.
Sam Amick of USA Today obtained the memo, which explained the recent $600,000 fine for Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and demanded teams protect the integrity of competition.
Silver said in the letter:
“With everything else changing around us, it is the one thing in our league that can never change. We must do everything in our power to protect the actual and perceived integrity of the game.”
He added that the league has been careful to distinguish between rebuilding efforts and teams actively trying to lose.
That’s an important distinction, and it’s also clearly something where the NBA gives considerable leeway. In the past, several teams have “shut down” a semi-injured veteran who is a leading scorer. For example, the Phoenix Suns benched Eric Bledsoe down the stretch of 2016-17.
Really, tanking could hardly be clearer. Yet in the memo, Silver said the league hasn’t encountered that type of conduct.
Silver isn’t dumb; he knows the Chicago Bulls aren’t benching Robin Lopez because he’s comparably ineffective. But if teams chasing the highest draft lottery odds start putting several key players on the pine, the league won’t be afraid to take action.