Well now it’s pretty obvious what NBA teams really think of the play-in tournament. The Dallas Mavericks spent the weekend doing everything they could to drop right out of the 10th seed and into the draft lottery, which they successfully did. Mavericks fans are probably most excited about the season being over, as it’s been one car crash after another either through injury, a roster that fit together like puzzle pieces covered in various bodily fluids, an owner who doesn’t want to take any responsibility, spiced with some Luka Doncic bitching at refs full-time. It’s been a miserable experience.
Grant Hill looks to repeat Team USA’s 2004 “success”
The NBA instituted this play-in system in the hopes of getting less teams to shit it, and keep hope alive for a few more as well. How’s that look now? I can attest that the 10-seed in the other conference, the Bulls, want to get out of dodge as quickly as possible too. Teams don’t “close hard” for the play-in, they fall into it. It’s an open manhole cover, not something to be climbed.
Putting it all on the line for the draft
The Mavs thought the draft was more important, especially as their pick this year is top-10 protected and thus won’t have to be sent to the Knicks as part of the uber-successful Kristaps Porzingis trade.
The Mavs are really only answerable to their fans, and their fans are probably A. sick enough of watching this kindergarten painting of a team that they’re fine with missing out on some more games, and B. are hoping that whatever the Mavs can do with that pick can help turn this team into something close to a recognizable form.
Tanking has been an issue in all the sports recently, especially in hockey and basketball where there’s a generational talent waiting to turn around a franchise on a dime in both (Victor Wembanyama and Connor Bedard). And everyone’s clutching their pearls about how unsightly it is, which is true. It’s the opposite of what sports are supposed to be.
But it’s all the league’s faults for fetishizing drafts and prospects. There was a method to it, because it’s cheaper talent and if fans are more focused on that they’re less focused on the money they’re not spending. Maybe the leagues themselves didn’t push the draft-centric coverage of all sports, but they sure didn’t get in the way either.
It’s fed into the salary-suppression ways that every league seems to be bleeding into more and more. The NBA’s new CBA makes it harder for teams to stay together with a second apron after the initial luxury tax. The NHL won’t be raising their salary cap next year unless they get even more give-back from the players. MLB is no different.
These leagues can’t have it both ways, making it impossible to keep teams together, if they’re even interested, and then get snippy when teams are gaming the system to benefit the most from the crooked system they’ve created.
There’s a simply answer to all of this, it’s one the NBA toyed with not so long ago. Randomize the draft. Why should being a suckfest come with any reward? Yes, this would be the time to talk about abolishing any draft, but that’s a little too out there for most. So just randomize it, with weights to make sure no team gets the top pick two years in a row or something. If you suck, get creative in a way to get better. Win only 17 games but end up with the 12th pick? Fuckin’ figure it out.
It might take a few seasons for teams to dig themselves out of a world where being awful was supposed to land rewards, and to find a way to build rosters that are at least representative. Nothing worth having comes easy.
But of course, all these teams are owned by billionaires who expect to be bailed out everywhere else when the fuck up. So why would their toys be any different? There shouldn’t be rewards for being bad. Sports seem to be the only place where everyone’s ok with a non-capitalist system. So which is it?
Bad day at the office for the USWNT
It was not a great weekend for the USWNT, despite beating Ireland 2-0 in one of the last tune-ups before the World Cup. That’s because Mallory Swanson, unquestionably the team’s best player for a while now, saw her knee turn to chewed graham crackers.
The US has depth at the wide attacker position of course, with Sophia Smith or Trinity Rodman or Midge Purce or Lynn Williams being able to take the spot. But none of them have had the devastating lethalness that Swanson has had for club and country the past year. The depth they had allowed for the US to play with sliding Smith or Swanson into the middle at times when Alex Morgan needed a rest, because there isn’t a lot of depth behind Morgan as a #9 (Catarina Macario’s status is dicey). That’s probably gone now.
The US still has too many issues in midfield (they seem to be heavily counting on Julie Ertz to solve most of the problems, even though she hadn’t played a game in two years before Saturday) to be a sure thing this summer. Making up for a lot of that was having a player like Swanson who could conjure something out of nothing and had the type of skills that a lot of opponents simply couldn’t deal with. Smith has that potential, though has shown it less with the national team than Swanson (Smith is only 22).
It’s a major blow, though the US is hardly alone. Both England (Beth Mead) and the Dutch (Vivianne Miedema) will be without top stars as well. That’s how it goes in international soccer. It’s heartbreaking for Swanson, who didn’t make the last Olympic squad and didn’t play a huge role in 2019. A big World Cup could have put her in the discussion for the Ballon d’Or or FIFA Player of The Year. The tournament will go on without her, and the USWNT is down a major weapon.