The Dallas Mavericks went from the Western Conference Finals to being fined for punting on the postseason in less than a year. As a result of a decision to sit key guys and play Luka Dončić only a quarter in essentially an elimination game against the Chicago Bulls on April 7, Mark Cuban’s pockets are going to be $750,000 lighter after the NBA deemed the move “conduct detrimental to the league.”
“The Mavericks violated the league’s player resting policy and demonstrated through actions and public statements the organization’s desire to lose the game in order to improve the chances of keeping its first-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft,” read a statement from the NBA.
“The league did not find that the players who participated in the game were not playing to win.”
Confusing double-negative aside, the penalty adds insult to ineptitude and is the perfect encapsulation of the effort Dallas showed throughout the 2022-23 campaign. I wish more sports leagues would penalize franchises for woefully underperforming. While I know the 38-44 record wasn’t technically why they caught a ticket for tanking, experts were bailing on the Mavs even before they traded everybody who plays defense on their roster for Kyrie Irving.
NBA Executive Vice President Joe Dumars said the Mavericks “failed our fans and our league.”
“The Dallas Mavericks’ decision to restrict key players from fully participating in an elimination game last Friday against Chicago undermined the integrity of our sport,” he added.
That seems tame, yet if you know Dumars, he might as well have said he wants to rip their hearts out, eat their children, praise be to Allah. The three-quarters of a million-dollar fine was such a layup of a decision that I’m surprised Adam Silver didn’t pile on in the news release.
These play-in games have added an extra wrinkle to franchises trying to pivot to the Draft Lottery. There’s no longer a bevy of embarrassments throwing games once the calendar flips, and I enjoy that it led to a scenario in which the league punished a squad for blatantly forfeiting games to jockey for draft position.
I personally feel seen by this, and if you had told me when Dallas acquired Irving that the Mavs season was going to end with them getting fined for ducking the playoffs, I would’ve added a chef’s kiss emoji in the mentions.
Over the past week, Dončić came out and said, “I’m happy here.” Irving declined to participate in the club’s exit interview with the media, which is on-brand and should be an indication that if they re-sign him, it should be a re-sign and trade. And I haven’t even mentioned Jason Kidd, who checked out once he lost the locker room sometime around Christmas, but whom GM Nico Harrison said “is our coach.”
Even though any Mavs postseason run would’ve likely ended Friday if not before had they qualified, there’s something to be said about showing some fucking backbone. Go out swinging, not sitting.
Speaking of going out…
The Bulls gave the Miami Heat a run for their culture, coming up short on offense late in a 102-91 loss. Now, Jimmy Butler gets to saunter into Milwaukee, shoes full of tacks, and try to will his team to one, maybe two wins against the Bucks.
In the West, Rudy Gobert returned for Minnesota, as did Anthony Edwards’ swag and shot, and the Timberwolves sent the Thunder back to Oklahoma City with some quasi-playoff experience. Karl-Anthony Towns scored 28, and the Wolves won 120-95.
Awaiting them are the Denver Nuggets, and I’m extremely excited to see the juxtaposition of basketball IQs between KAT and Nikola Jokić over the next four to… four games. Gotta love it when a league adds a bunch of playoff spots only for the frisky 9 and 10 seeds to still get sent fishing.
Oh well. The real action begins today with a quadruple header, and I’m fucking amped for non-load management basketball.