In the past few years, the NBA has had trouble dealing with late-season controversy involving teams' pursuit of a better percentage to gain the number one draft pick. The tanking theory has come into play numerous times. In 2006, the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies played a game to determine who would be the fifth or sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The sixth seeded team, or the loser, would get home-field advantage against the Denver Nuggets, and would have a better chance at avoiding the best teams in the conference. The fifth seed would have to face the second best team on the road. The result: The Clippers lost the game and defeated the Nuggets in the first-round. The Grizzlies were swept in their series.
Although it seemed like the Clippers were fighting for the win, they pulled their starters and the reserves were the ones that cut an 18-point deficit to three. Why play reserves if you're trying to win? This is only one example of instances when a team seemed like another agenda, not including winning, was on their minds
During the 2002-2003 season, the Cavaliers traded Lamond Murray, Andre Miller and Wesley Person. The result was a team with a better chance of losing. Although there is no evidence of the team losing on purpose, the trades probably cost them 10 to 12 wins during the season. The worse record gave them a better chance in the lottery, and they ended up drafting LeBron James.
"They trade all our guys away and we go real young, and the goal was to get LeBron and also to sell the team," ex-Cavalier head coach John Lucas said in an interview with FanHouse. "I didn't have a chance. ... You can't fault them for wanting to get LeBron. It was hard to get free agents to come there."
Lucas may be bitter for getting fired in the middle of the season, but he Cavaliers started 8-34 and would never recover before he was let go. What could Lucas possibly do without any players?
The NBA knows the realities, and they are pondering ways to fix the system. On Oct. 29, Mark Warkentien, the general manager of the Denver Nuggets, devised a plan to help eradicate the practice of losing on purpose. In his new system, the one through seven seeds would be seeded accordingly. However, the last seed would be awarded to the winner of a single elimination tournament between the eight through 15 seeds. Therefore, everyone has a chance at the playoffs, and teams would try and win to get the extra playoff home games.
The proposal isn’t so far-fetched it seems. According to CBSsports.com, the competition committee has added it to their agenda for their Friday meeting. They will vote on whether to recommend the plan for the Board of Governors to adopt, or they may alter the plan and send the revisions. Regardless, the idea is being discussed and has apparently tickled the minds of the committee members.
Personally, I think the plan is interesting. It would have to be a three-day tournament before the playoffs, either pushing the playoffs back or shortening the regular season. The games couldn’t be spaced too far a part, which may mean a team has to play three games in four days or even back-to-back-to-back games. Plus, teams may rest starters before the season ends since they know they get a shot anyway. Suddenly, tanking is a topic again (and what is keeping the 15 seed from losing and getting the better lottery draw).
The idea seems more like a money making scheme than anything else. The fans will love a tournament. A team will likely get more fan support during the tournament, instead of trying to give tickets away. Plus, the NBA would be able to market the event and make television and merchandising contracts. However, teams will still be trying to rebuild. A franchise ultimately wants to be a world champion, not an eighth seed ready to get pounced by a one seed.