After the NBA draft lottery last week, an ESPN SportsNation online poll asked fans if they’d support their team “tanking” games — losing games virtually on purpose in order to get a better chance for the top overall pick. It was a 50/50 split among the 153,000-plus who responded.
However, a further look at the state-by-state instant results was Gomer Pyle-like: Surprise, surprise — 54 percent of Minnesota-based fans favor tanking, as does Utah (53 percent), Wisconsin (58 percent), Michigan (56 percent), New York (57 percent) and Ohio (53 percent). But in a state like Nevada, where the nation’s gambling capital is located, 51 percent said no.
These results, although for entertainment purposes only, show a dangerous side to some sports fans: They would rather support de facto cheating for a million-to-one shot at a top draft pick than see consistent, competitive basketball. This given the fact that there haven’t been any franchise changers like a Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon or Tim Duncan in the draft for eons. Instead we’ve seen plenty of clunkers over the years.
Game-tanking accusations are why there’s a draft lottery in the first place. Instead of punishing teams by snatching away draft picks or levy huge fines, we’ve had former Commissioner David Stern’s pseudo-game show since 1985.
Despite the institution of a present “weighted” lottery system, accusations of rigging still exist, beginning with the very first one in which critics decried that New York won the right to select Ewing in 1985, or when Orlando won back-to-back top picks, including in 1993 with only one ping-pong ball to do so over Minnesota who had 10 balls.
Last week, Cleveland won the lottery for the second consecutive year over Philadelphia and Milwaukee, two clubs with worse records than the Cavs.
Never in my fan lifetime have I ever rooted for my favorite team to give up the ghost and purposely lose games, even when the Detroit Pistons were absolutely the league’s worst in every way imaginable. But if the four-letter network poll is accurate in reporting that at least half of America’s sports fans support losing for the sake of getting a better chance at a high draft pick, a slippery slope has been greased.
This, I’m afraid, has created skepticism and doubting Thomases whenever we are watching NBA games in the 21st century. We are not here calling for the do-nothing Congress to launch an investigation, but rather for the league to seriously eliminate draft lotteries and install a more transparent draft selection process with serious consequences if violated.
Loves’ Labors Lost?
Despite recent published reports, including those in the MSR, if current Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love stays true to his intention not to re-sign with the club after next season, then so be it. If he wants to act like Paul McCartney and knock on the exit door, then open it and let him through.
Love is not a franchise player but a stat-sheet-filler good player on a perennial bad club. If he’s so tired of losing, as it was suggested on our sports page, then Love needs to put up and shut up. Instead, he’s only looking to get paid, not sticking around to help Minnesota get better.
Love’s no Maya Moore or Seimone Augustus, who have put up championship banners in the same arena he plays in. Instead, he needs to take Oscar Robertson’s recent advice on NBA Radio — if Love wants to play on a winner, then play harder and help his current team become one instead of running away.
Wolves officials need to stop “begging” a player who seemingly doesn’t want to stay and instead find players who do. Either trade him and get something for Love, offer him a Don Corleone-type contract, or at the end of next season open the door and let him go.
A British man once told me that he’d never seen a country such as America where 99 percent of its citizens seemingly support billionaires to keep on making billions on their backs, all in the name of a free market system.
Check out this scenario: an elderly team owner has a heated argument with his lady friend, who’s secretly taping it. Then it get publicly aired, which gets him banned for life and forced to sell his interests.
Far fetched? Let me present Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who even if he sells half or all of his interests, either to his wife or to someone else, goes to the bank to the tune of $575 million, a $562.5 million profit.
Not bad for a reputed racist.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman @ spokesman-recorder.com.