I would have hated to be a fan of the Philadelphia 76ers last season knowing that reading an article about the team trying to win games was the exception to the rule. Honestly, how does one attend a game of his hometown team and hope for a good loss? Then again, how does one provide firm proof that a team is holding back just enough to ensure a loss? I mean there is “evidence” but how do you prove it? The whole reason the NBA draft lottery was created back in 1985, and then re-invented in 1990, was to battle against the phenomenon of teams losing on purpose aka “tanking”
The naïve sports fan I was growing up, I thought tanking was when legitimate injuries derailed a team’s playoff hopes. At that point in time the General Manager would instruct the coach to play the secondary players and rookies in a larger role. It made sense to give these players more time on the floor since gaining experience was now much more important than wins or losses.
The Denver Nuggets could have deployed this tactic last season with JaVale McGee, JJ Hickson, Danilo Gallinari, Nate Robinson and Ty Lawson all on the injured list. Make no bones about it, those five players could be used as a successful starting lineup. If at that point in time, GM Tim Connelly gave coach Brian Shaw the orders to give starter minutes to Quincy Miller, Evan Fournier, Anthony Randolph and Jan Vesely, a fan could understand the logic.
I am an adult now. I have children. I always preach to them to try their best. So I when read stories and comments by fans hoping their team defies this simple logic we try to instil into our children, it aggravates me. Last season before a ball was dribbled, before a net was swished, fans were already “hoping” for a lost season from Ty Lawson and company. Countless posts littered the internet suggesting our Denver Nuggets should just rollover and allow the league to make the Pepsi Center their home away from home.
There is no “wrong” way to cheer for your team but I will never understand the logic of hoping to create success through failure. I understand drafting in the Top 5 of the NBA Draft potentially nets you a superstar. Drafting a superstar is much easier than trading for a superstar. Trading for a superstar is especially difficult if you are team stuck in an annual battle to just make the playoffs. All that said, I still cannot wrap my head around how many teams simply decide to lose instead of progressively improve.
I am glad that Denver stayed true and played hard until the bitter end. I am perfectly okay accepting the fact my team is likely choosing between Nik Stauskas or Gary Harris at the #11 spot in the NBA draft instead of Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins in the top three. A real General Manager uses free agency and trades to patch holes in a roster. The podium is yours Mr. Connelly.