Adam Silver: Putting aside tanking—I’ll say the word, which to me, suggests players or coaches are intentionally losing games, and I think if I, as the commissioner, ever thought that was actually what was happening on the floor, of course we’d step in—but then there is legitimate rebuilding. You see it in lots of businesses, where an organization says, ‘We need to bring in new talent. It’s gonna take time to develop and train them.’ […] I’m not about to penalize a team for trading away a veteran to get draft picks because that’s how the league works. Finding and calibrating this is not an exact science, but we’ll even have to spend more time focused on it if sports betting becomes legal.
Adam Silver: I think in terms of other tournaments, we’re gonna study things. We’re especially looking at other things around how teams move into the playoffs. Maybe that’s also a way to deal with the rebuilding issue that’s become so prominent in the league now. Nothing to announce yet.
The Knicks have the NBA’s ninth-worst record, and are one-half game behind Chicago in the Lottery standings. It’s a game that many Knicks fans probably are considering a must-lose to help the team leapfrog Chicago and improve their draft position. “It bothers me, but I understand,” Burke said. “From a fan’s standpoint I understand. But from a player’s standpoint, they have to understand as well. That’s all I ask of them. I ask the fans to understand our standpoint, too. Do you all want us to go out there and to look bad, to look like bums? They might say we already look like bums. Whatever they say.”
They don’t care where the team picks in the draft next year. Many of them are playing for contracts — including Burke — so they’re not thinking if they play poorly it helps the organization. “That’s not in my DNA to go out there and lose,” Burke said. “I don’t know how to play like that. I’ve never been taught how to play like that. We go out there, we got families. We’re not only playing for the organization, playing for the city, we’re playing for our families as well. I just don’t know how to do that.”
The 25-year-old is thrilled that Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey didn’t choose to go the rebuilding route. They landed rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell in a draft-night trade with Denver, made key free agent signings and trades, continued to focus on player development, and now find themselves looking as dangerous as any team around. “Just try to teach players how to make winning plays, not only good basketball plays but winning plays,” Gobert said in explaining coach Quin Snyder’s system. “Teach every single one to help the team win games. A lot of teams are very good doing skill work, strength work. But if you want to win, you have to teach a player how to win. That’s why I don’t believe in tanking, all that stuff. I believe you learn how to win by winning. You don’t learn how to win by losing on purpose to get a 19-year-old who you’ve never seen.”
The idea that a basketball team would prefer to lose rather than win — and would do so by any means possible — is repugnant to Sam Worthen. “I’m not a fan of that at all,” Worthen said of the draft lottery-focused, race to the bottom embraced by some NBA teams as the season wanes. “That’s not right. It goes against competition. To me, that’s cheating the fans. You give 100 percent all the time. That’s just my personal opinion.” Sam Worthen is the coach of the Washington Generals. Not familiar with the Washington Generals? If you’ve heard of the Harlem Globetrotters, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the Generals. They are the Globetrotters’ perennial sparring partners, sad-sack straight men to basketball’s crown princes of comedy.
Ian Begley: Enes Kanter: “The Knicks are paying me money to win games, to go out there and compete and to try to win every game. The Knicks are not paying me to tank.” A reminder that management, not players, enact tanking. I’m sure teammates/coaches appreciate Kanter’s sentiment here