Foul Play: Mavs get Mashed

The NBA is a strange, strange place. Teams juggle draft picks representing players in the seventh grade, one or two big stars carry teams, and players spend a third of the season contracting various minor injuries so that they can play less basketball. Teams tank for a 14 percent chance of bringing home the #1 overall pick, and gamble decades of mediocrity on the off chance one of the many ‘generational talents’ touted every offseason makes the difference. Those top players then get shuffled from one team to the next, paired up with anywhere from amazing talent to the dredges of the G-League, trying to drag one team or another to the playoffs in the hopes of becoming NBA champions. Out of the 32 teams that play in the league, 20 go to the postseason. Out of the 20, 19 will lose. No team seeded 7th or lower has ever won the NBA Finals. The 6th seed has won a total of once, as has the fourth seed. That means, in all practicality, 17 out of those 20 postseason teams are really just walking zombies, without much hope at all.

It’s a sad sport, really.

But ignore that! The postseason hasn’t even started this year, and the league has been insane this season. The best team in the West is the 52-win Denver Nuggets, with two other teams within 3 wins of them. The Bucks, Celtics and 76ers lead the East, with 58, 57, and 54 wins respectively. The new play-in format means more playoff games, and that’s always fun!

While all these teams are having an absolute blast playing the sport, there’s always the other side. Three teams have 60+ losses, with the Pistons, the Spurs, and the Rockets all competing to get the #1 draft pick and pick up Victor Wembanyama, a phenom out of France. They’re doing a good job at tanking, though, and even if they miss Victor, they’re still guaranteed top 5 picks. So on both ends of the league, teams are doing good at what they want – losing or winning.

Except for Dallas. What the hell, Dallas? While everyone else is having a blast, the Mavs have been imploding. After posting a miserable 7-13 record since the All-Star break, the Mavericks went from “will probably make the playoffs” at 32-29 to “well, there’s always next year” at 38-43.

Which is, well, fine. The Portland Trailblazers did the same as the Mavs, holding about .500 and then careening off a cliff after the ASB. So what did the Mavs do that’s so special?

Well, for one, the Mavs have not one, but two superstars. Luka “Devin’s Daddy” Doncic and Kyrie “Basketballs are round, the Earth is flat” Irving have been putting together an excellent season, but the Mavs couldn’t make it to the postseason. And then, it seems like Doncic wants a trade. At the same time, the New York Knicks are coming a-knocking for their first-rounder this year, and the Mavs don’t have the next two years’ second rounders. Even if they wanted to make something happen, if they lose Doncic, they just don’t have the draft capital to rebuild.

Which makes losing a game to the Bulls, an elimination game at that, where they’d led by 15 at some point, a pretty big problem. I’m not sure Doncic would want to keep playing for this team, and if they can’t make a push with two incredibly good players, what’s left?

Of course, that’s not where things get really bad. The Mavs coach, Jason Kidd, got on stage, and realizing the options were to blame himself, or blame his boss, admitted that management had told him to pull players when they got hot.

Uh oh. That sounds suspiciously like admitting to throwing a game.

But watching that game, it sure does make sense. Kidd pulled Luka after a quarter, and then he went and took a shower. He just checked alllll the way out. He pulled any player who got remotely hot, making sure that there was no way the Bulls could fumble this game away.

God knows they were trying. Like, how do you manage to go down 15 points to a team that is TRYING to lose. It was like watching hot potato, with the Mavs and the Bulls just tossing the game back and forth, trying to get the other to win. With all that, the Mavs still had a chance at tying the game with a last minute three. Sure, they missed that three, and Mark Cuban gave a little smirk, but how do you put yourself in a position to lose against a G-League team?

But this is also really serious for the NBA. If teams can admit to throwing games, there will be legal action from betting groups sports gambling companies, as suddenly collusion becomes public and gamblers can bring up massive class action lawsuits. In boxing, throwing is a felony. Adam Silver, league commissioner, is not a fan of teams trying to mess with the "integrity of his league," though he is definitely willing to have the league's "integrity" get sponsored by DraftKings. If he brings down the hammer, Mizzou might get the death pen- I mean, the Mavs might have a lot to lose.

So now, the Mavs have a coach who has gone on tape to admit that he threw a game. The league is investigating. They have a superstar who wants out, and another who thinks that the vaccine is a way of connecting African Americans to a supercomputer for Satan. They have no second round picks for two years, and if they get hit with punishments, probably lose their first this year. If they do, it means that the Knicks will be coming back in ‘24 to try to take their first rounder, again.

Sure is a great time to a Dallas fan, I’ll tell you what.