Why Do NBA Teams Tank So Damn Much?

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Before you head off to the airport and discover newfound levels of hatred for your fellow man, a quick programming note: I am off for the next week, which means half of this week and half of next week, because having Christmas and New Year's both fall on a Thursday makes everything weird. Anyway, there's no Funbag next week. No guest host, no nothing. And you get Leitch guest-hosting the Jamboroo on Christmas Day before I come back for the Wild Card round. Got it? Be sure to tattoo all of that on your palm so you don't forget.

Your letters:


The 76ers are setting all-time highs in tanking. Is there any way this high-water mark of intentional suckage can be topped?


I think that it will be consistently matched over the years, because the NBA is the league that is most vulnerable to season-long tank jobs, and I don't know if there's much they can do to prevent it. Consider all of the incentives for an NBA team to tank:

1. Due to the fact that you only play five guys on the court, a single player can do more to change the fortunes of a basketball team than a single player in virtually any other sport. (This is why basketball should be TEN ON TEN, and played on courts the size of golf holes! THINK ABOUT IT [******BONG RIP*******].

2. Playing half-assed won't get you killed, the way it does in football. You will notice that many bad football teams still win games in December, even sacrificing critical draft position to do so (and there's not even a lottery! If you're the worst, you're guaranteed the top pick!). Jets fans hate it when this happens. You could even argue that it would help an NFL team to tank more than it would help an NBA team. But football does not allow for half-speed. You'll get both your legs broken if you saunter out there, and the preservation of your career takes precedent over the team's draft position. So most players play hard all the way through. In basketball, tanking is something you can pull off without as much potential physical damage (although I wouldn't just go chilling in the paint when there are elbows flying around).

3. There is an enormous difference between the players at the top of the first round of the NBA draft and the guys below. In football or baseball, you can unearth All-Pro talent way, way down in the draft. But in the NBA draft, it's often clear, right from the start, which players will be stars and which will be garbage. And even if you draft a guy like Derrick Rose who is brilliant but frail, you'll at least have achieved some instant league-wide relevance. If you fall out of the top three picks or so (and that's in a good year), you are fucked.


4. Some fans will go along with your tank job! The NFL culture loathes quitters, so "giving up" and "mailing it in" are damnable, potentially career-killing labels for coaches and players. But plenty of NBA fans understand that you need talent to win, even if that means tanking a whole season, which is what the Sixers are currently doing. A whole season! Jesus Christ!

5. With the enormous exception of LeBron James, it's very, very hard for some podunk market team in the NBA to attract a game-changing free agent. Their only hope is the draft, which means that their only hope is the TOP of the draft.


6. In the NFL, player careers are so short, you can't tank without the risk that the few good building-block players you already have will age out of usefulness. You thought that stud RB of your would pair well with Marcus Mariota, did you? OOP TURNS OUT HIS MENISCUS IS MADE OF OLD PETROLEUM JELLY. No run support for you!

7. Due to injury concerns and the fickle nature of scouting, the top of the NFL draft is a bigger crapshoot than the top of the NBA draft, especially at QB. Didn't Gregggggggggggg Authenticbrook tell you that first-rounders are CURSED?!


8. Developing young talent is not as important in the NBA as it is in football and baseball. In football and baseball, your rookies and farmhands need reps to become awesome. Basketball players also need development, but in general, you aren't turning that second-rounder from LaSalle into a superstar just by trotting him out there against the Bucks night after night. That guy has already played 567,000 college and AAU and Catalonian LL-League games. He's already all he's gonna be.

So that's why you see a scourge of horrific tanking throughout the NBA year after year. The only way to fix it is to discard the lottery process and change the draft so that the best non-playoff team gets the best draft position (or, if you're feeling radical, getting rid of the draft altogether). Giving the worst team a middling draft choice might punish all the genuinely shitty NBA teams out there. The problem is, at this point, there are so many teams tanking that I can't tell which teams those might happen to be.



Would you take Rudolph powers for life? You can fly, but your nose glows bright red, all the time. And one night a year, you have to fly through the freezing cold, hauling a fat guy.


Hell fucking yes. I would sell one of my kids for the ability to fly, so a red nose is no big deal. Besides, the whole point of the Rudolph story is to take pride in the things that make you different, so I would rock the red nose with confidence. I THINK IT'S A HANDSOME NOSE. MUCH BETTER THAN THAT SILLY FALSE ONE YOU WERE WEARING. I could make a whole #BRAND out of being Drewdolph. I could trademark my nickname, sell plush toys, and preside over the grand opening of a local roller rink. I'd be RICH. I'd be rich, and I could fly! NO ONE COULD STOP ME!

I bet it would fuck with my sleep, though. Like, if there's a big red light bulb between your eyes all night, your sleep cycle will probably be ruined. I might go cross-eyed and developed mania due to sleep deprivation. Eventually, I would go mad, flying around with a knife and breaking through stranger's windows, terrorizing them in the dead of night. And then I would probably be shot to death. Still worth it, though!



I was watching the Chiefs-Steelers game and was dumbfounded that I had not realized before how little Andy Reid actually moves during a football game. Granted, it's usually cold as balls in KC during football season, and if I was as insulated as he was, I wouldn't move much either. However, this got me thinking about which sports coach or manager logs the most mileage during the course of a season. Instinctively, I wanted to say football, since the coaches truck it back and forth between the 20s maybe 12-15 times a game, but then I wondered how that compared to the shuffling back and forth baseball managers do over the course of a 162-game season. That has to be more than football coaches log during a 16-game campaign, right?


Absolutely. If you're managing 162 games a year and making a handful of trips out to the mound or out to the plate to spit on the ump, you could easily rack up a solid 5/16ths of a mile walking over a full summer. It's why Tommy Lasorda looked so fit and vital.

However, even with all that mandatory walking, I don't think that baseball managers take as many steps during the course of a full season as basketball coaches do. It's odd, since a basketball coach doesn't HAVE to move at all (like when Phil Jackson used to sit down and watch games from a chair, like a complete asshole). He can see all of the action unfold from a fixed point on the sideline. And yet, you've seen basketball coaches in action. They're fucking maniacs. They probably log five miles of walking while confined to a space of 20 square feet. They pace. They jump. They fall to their knees. I've seen preachers who work up less of a sweat. I would say the rankings for total distance walked go like this:

1. Basketball

2. Baseball

3. Football (move up one spot if your last name is HARBAUGH)

4. Hockey.

Do hockey coaches ever move? I'm not even sure they're allowed to. Every time they cut to a hockey coach, the poor bastard is just standing behind his guys with his thumb up his ass. I bet they barely have room to point their toes forward. God, that looks uncomfortable.



In light of the Sony hack debacle, what kind of cyberattack would North Korea have to pull for the U.S. to declare all-out war?


They would have to significantly fuck with our money (bring down a bank, etc.) or do something that inflicts physical harm upon American citizens, like using a cyber attack to shut down local water supplies and power grids, causing actual deaths. If that ever happened: Goodbye, North Korea. There needs to be some kind of visible, physical consequence to make cyberwarfare seem personal. If a movie gets cancelled, it's hard to really give a shit. If a Sony exec gets hacked … well, one of the shitty things about getting hacked is that no one cares anywhere near as much about your hacking as you do, because it's happening to you and you only.

But if you can see footage of a person dying because the DPRK hacked into our missile-launch codes and set them off, or if your entire state is plunged into darkness, then it becomes far more real. That's when people take up the pitchforks and get all bomb-y.



After standing by Ray McDonald through the earlier allegations (and letting Aldon play despite his game-day DUI last year), it was already pretty obvious the 49ers only care about winning. What are the odds they would have kept him had they still been in contention for the playoffs?


I think they would have cut his ass after the rape charge no matter what. Maybe they bought Ray's story after the first charge against him. But once the other charge came in, I'm sure they were super pissed that Ray made them look dumb (oh, and maybe they were pissed about his actual alleged crimes, as well!). You can't carry water for that guy anymore after that.

Frankly, apart from their whole spiel about getting tough on DV offenders, I don't think the Niners handled it all that badly. They gave McDonald the benefit of the doubt first, and then they cut him loose of their own accord, without waiting for the Ginger Hammer to step in with the Dredd helmet on and offer his RENDERING OF JUDGMENT. Of course they only care about winning. That's the point. I would rather have a team be callous about this sort of thing than disingenuous.


Every team, at some point, will find itself confronted with its own hypocrisy. It's unavoidable. If you run a team, and your best player gets accused of doing something bad, and he says he didn't do it, and he was irreplaceable, what would YOU do? If you keep him, you're a sleazebag. If you cut him, you're a disloyal boss who didn't even allow due process to take its course. Thankfully, McDonald helped out the Niners by getting a second charge that increased the likelihood of him being a colossal asshole by a solid 98 percent. Regardless of record, keeping him would have been toxic. The fact that they suck this year just makes it more of an obvious decision. But I don't fault the Niners for handling it the way they have. The market has spoken!


Colin (NOTE: Story below not verified, obviously):

I am from Louisville, and everyone from Louisville has stories about fellow native Papa John. Every story ends with him being a mega-douche, which makes this one heartwarming:

When Papa John is on set with Peyton Manning in those awful commercials, Peyton relentlessly makes fun of Papa John—his height (he stands on a box in the commercials to appear taller), his dyed hair, his pizza, and his stupid NFL fan-boy attitude. Papa takes all of this shit, and just laughs along with it.

How do you think Papa John sees their relationship?

Papa John is a subhuman brandbot who probably has his LinkedIn URL committed to memory. There are no friends in Papa John's world. There are only contacts. So he probably thinks that Peyton is his esteemed business partner and colleague. He's probably more than happy to let Peyton lock him inside a pizzeria walk-in fridge if it means he gets to keep Peyton's number on his phone and drop the phrase "my good friend Peyton Manning" at Big Hair McMansion cookouts. God, Papa John sucks. He can eat a gallon of dicks.


By the way, I watched that Denver-Cincy game last night (GREAT FOOTBAW GAME!), and I thought Gruden was gonna pop six vertebrae carrying water for Peyton. It was pathetic. You never would have guessed that Peyton threw four goddamn interceptions listening to that game. This is why I've hated Manning for years and years and years. There are certain guys like Manning and Favre who get a free pass from announcers for life. They NEVER get shit, and I don't understand it. You can say that Peyton Manning is one of the best players of all time but still call him out when he does a shitty job. He doesn't need damage control. It doesn't help him or the viewer at home. If he sucks, say he sucks. Because since October, Peyton Manning's game has devolved into a puddle of dog piss.


Do you think "petsitter" could ever become a porn-site category, like babysitter?


No, because you would need a dog-wrangler on the set. That's an added expense that the porn industry cannot budget for IN THIS ECONOMY. The old cliché is that you should never make a movie with water, babies, or animals. Same for porn. That's why you don't see any five-way baby-oil dildo orgies set on a life raft, with six babies crying in the background. Oh, but if they could make that happen … SO EROTIC.


My good buddy from high school, whose best man I'm going to be next year, lives in L/A. Tech job, makes six figures, has extreme first-world problems. I, on the other hand, live in a rural area of the East Coast and work in the media. I do not make six figures. His latest time-consuming hobby is dabbling in the stock market. This is all well and good—each to their own—but I get multiple updates per day on his $25k portfolio's every move. Via text, Gchat, even timezone-disregarding late-night phone calls after work. I give the most noncommittal, vague responses ever, or often just ignore them entirely, because I couldn't be less interested, but I don't feel like I can just out and say, "I'd rather hear your bowel movements than your stock movements." What the hell is the etiquette here?


Tell him. If he's a legitimate friend, tell him how fucking annoying it is. Tell him YOU'VE CHANGED, MAN. If he can't accept that criticism, then he can fuck right off. He's probably beyond salvation already if he's texting people updates on his goddamn stock portfolio. Who does that? The only other person who would do that is Papa John. That is not acceptable behavior.

I have friends who make probably more money than I do, and friends who probably make less (I never ask friends their salary, because I am a WASP, and it's just so very crass to talk about such things). So if we're going out to eat or some shit, I'll always make sure that we're in agreement on whether or not we're gonna eat somewhere cheap or somewhere fancy. That shouldn't be an out-of-bounds topic. If a friend is gonna give me the stink-eye because I don't wanna drop $60 on a steak, he can go pound sand. I'm not a cheapskate. He's an expensive-skate.


Friends get a lot more sensitive as you grow older. You turn 38, and suddenly talking about money or Jimmy's raging alcoholism becomes a lot dicier. And I get why this happens. You become more mature, and cracking jokes about banging Dave's mom isn't as funny anymore, because his mom died of cancer. But you have to retain some level of honesty, otherwise your friend is just an acquaintance. The best friends are the ones you don't have to be polite around.


I am 49, and I have told my wife that the only thing I want for my 50th birthday is to be able to go #2 while lying down. Like in a bed, or on the couch. I think it would bring a sense of peace. She doesn't think I should, and wants to get me a Vitamix instead. What do you think?


Take the Vitamix. You can turn a T-bone into a milkshake with one of those things. You don't want to poop while lying down. That's for someone who is on his deathbed. You don't wanna be the shits-while-lying-down guy.


My sister texted me "Happy Birthday" this morning. At 6:15. I wake up at 7:30 because I do not have children. I have told her repeatedly I do not like texts before 7:30. (I keep my phone on vibrate but it still wakes me—because of work I cannot keep it completely silenced). She says that birthday texts are appreciated at any time of day. I think she is being an asshole. She thinks I am being an asshole for getting mad at her text. Who's right here? When are appropriate texting hours?


Unless it's an emergency, I would restrict texting hours to the same timeframe as calling hours. The texter shouldn't just assume that you are awake (or that your phone is off) and that they can send you a zillion texts at 3:42 a.m. That's crap. Just because you're awake and lonely doesn't mean you get to harass a person who is busy trying to sleep.

A lot of people have vibrate/ringtone alerts for their texts (I don't… I prefer to check my phone every five seconds and be pleasantly surprised when one appears!), AND they keep their phones on the nightstand when they sleep. You should never do this. You should keep the phone in another room when you sleep, because otherwise the phone will ruin your sleep forever. Every text and email on your phone has a potential alert signal, and every goddamn app wants to send you a push notification. You can set it up so that your phone is ALWAYS poking you with something idiotic. You gotta set limits, man. I've been in hotel rooms, checking my stupid phone at 6 a.m., refreshing Twitter every three seconds, wondering what the fuck I'm doing with my life. It's not a good feeling. Tell your sister to lay off the texting and take some sister time.



Do you think anyone has ever gotten on a plane and traveled for the singular purpose of discussing a fantasy football trade?


Sure. Rich tech bros would do something like this. They would do it specifically to say that they hopped on a plane to go discuss a stupid fantasy trade. OUR LEAGUE IS HARDCORE. Every guy wants to be in the most hardcore fantasy league possible, the kind where you talk about the $1,500 entry fee like it's a perfectly reasonable sum. "Bro, ours is as close as it gets to the real deal."

If you're in your twenties and you have some disposable income, you are at Peak Lunatic Fantasy Owner age. That's when you have the time to sit there for six hours a day researching that "Odell Beckham for Jimmy Graham and Joique Bell" trade. I used to check out all the fantasy message boards, and ask for roster ratings, and check out start/sit columns, and all that shit. I don't do that anymore, because I'd rather just sit here and eat ham. But if you're 23, that shit is life and death.



There are days when my roommates are away, I'm being lazy watching college football, and I don't say much, as I am not required to. Maybe I say "thank you" to a delivery guy (thanks of course to online ordering).

What do you think the least amount of words you've spoken in one full day is? You think it's ever been zero? I think I've gone under 10 for sure.


I don't think I've gone under 100, because I talk to myself too much. Like, if I'm alone for the entire day, I'll still probably mutter shit to myself, or randomly start reciting dialogue from True Romance, or sing a song in the shower, or yell at the TV. I'm not enough of a stoic to make it through the entire day like a monk. If I sense that I haven't said anything in a while, my brain starts to itch. It's like noticing your own breathing. I gotta make some noise, even if it means talking to myself like a deranged hobo. I'll talk to myself in the car. I'll have a damn cocktail party.

I'll also get a nudge from the wife if I haven't said anything. If you don't say anything to a woman all day, they take offense. This happens a lot when you get married, because you know each other well enough that you can take each other's cues without saying a word. But if I'm quiet all day, and then a friend a calls and I won't shut the fuck up, my wife will take note. Hey, why does he get all of your words and not me, you dick? And that's fair. Of course, then I'll start yapping, and my wife will be like, Whoa hey, what's with all the talking? Why don't you pipe down there, amigo? I'm not very good with talk balance.


Email of the week!


When I was a junior in high school, I had to attend the "alternative school" (where all the criminals/dumbfucks go, because they can't operate in normal high school) due to being an interminable class clown/dickhead for far too long. So anyway, I actually became good friends with damn near every clique at this new school somehow (punks, gangbangers, etc.), and one day this group of punk-rocker chicks are giving me a hard time for being a white-bread no-trouble-making square etc, and I decide, "Fuck that, they are gonna respect my counter-culture chops!"

They dare me to die my pubes blue, to which I readily agree, because in my 16-year old mind, I was like, 'That means they want proof, which means they'll be near my bare dick, which means sex, maybe even group sex! It is so on!' So, the next day they give me the blue hair dye and stuff to bleach my short 'n curlies.

I go home and read the instructions and it says I need an application brush of some sort, so I just grab a paintbrush from my probably 5-year old sister's play room and set to work on doing the deed. I apply the bleach and then the dye and when I felt it had sufficiently soaked in, I just threw all the stuff away in the bathroom trash (mistake).

I am sitting in my room, chatting on AIM (yes, it was 2000), when my mom pops into my bedroom doorway asking why the fuck I threw away my sister's paint brush along with hair bleach and dye that I obviously used the brush for. She examines me for a few seconds staring at the hair on my head and armpits (I was shirtless), and says, 'Wait a second... I can't see any dyed hair...' My face drained of all color, and she KNEW right away. She simply said, 'Oh, my fucking God... I.... I... can't....' Then she just walked away, and we have never spoken of it again.


Merry Christmas, everybody!

Drew Magary writes for Deadspin. He's also a correspondent for GQ. Follow him on Twitter @drewmagary and email him at drew@deadspin.com. You can also order Drew's book, Someone Could Get Hurt, through his homepage.


Image by Sam Woolley.

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