Adam Silver sent a letter to NBA teams telling them not to tank

NBA commissioner Adam Silver

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver
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Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

  • NBA co missioner Adam Silver sent a letter telling teams not to tank.
  • But tanking can be tricky to legislate.
  • The league has taken steps in recent years to try and prevent teams from tanking.

With tanking looking to be rampant as the NBA regular season enters the home stretch, USA Today has obtained a letter that NBA commissioner Adam Silver sent to all 30 teams telling them not to tank.

“Over the past several seasons, discussions about so-called ‘tanking’ in the NBA have occurred with some frequency, both in the public discourse and within our league . . . Throughout this period, we have been careful to distinguish between efforts teams may make to rebuild their rosters, including through personnel changes over the course of several seasons, and circumstances in which players or coaches on the floor take steps to lose games,” Silver wrote.

“If we ever received evidence that players or coaches were attempting to lose or otherwise taking steps to cause any game to result otherwise than on its competitive merits, that conduct would be met with the swiftest and harshest response possible from the league office.”

Of course, defining tanking strictly as a case of players or coaches intentionally trying to lose creates rather narrow grounds for actually punishing teams. It’s unlikely that even the notorious Philadelphia 76ers teams under Sam Hinkie featured players actually trying to lose games. Tanking is usually a front office-driven strategy rather than something that happens on the court.

Still, the league has taken other measures to combat tanking, or at least the perception of tanking. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was handed a massive fine for talking about tanking, the league has already tweaked the draft lottery slightly to reduce teams incentive to tank, and it is even considering a playoffs play-in tournament that would further disincentivize tanking.