The NBA is launching an investigation into Mavericks roster decisions and gameplay after losing to Bulls
According to league spokesman Mike Bass, the NBA is investigating the facts and circumstances surrounding the Dallas Mavericks’ roster decisions and gameplay following their loss to the Chicago Bulls. The Mavericks entered Friday without technically being eliminated from the playoffs. However, they ultimately chose to rest Kyrie Irving and four key role players (Josh Green, Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber and Christian Wood) while star point guard Luka Doncic only played the first quarter. The Mavericks lost 115-112 and were eliminated from the postseason.
“We were fighting for our lives and we understand we are in this situation, but the organization made the decision to change,” Mavs coach Jason Kidd said during his pregame media availability. “So, you know, we have to comply and that’s something that happens. So the guys who are playing have to go out there and do our best and we talked about that this afternoon.”
The Mavericks had great incentive to lose on Friday. While their playoff hopes were technically still alive, the odds were against them. However, they credit the New York Knicks for their top-10 first-round picks. If they had finished the season tied overall with the Oklahoma City Thunder or the Chicago Bulls, they would have been in danger of losing their pick without making the postseason.
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Exactly what the NBA is investigating here isn’t entirely clear. The Mavericks players on the ground nearly won the game despite the absence of their more famous teammates, and teams often field their best players late in the season for draft position reasons. Many teams create rosters designed to lose for the sake of a draft pick. While the unique circumstances surrounding the Mavericks were unique, tanking as a whole is not unique.
It would therefore be difficult to prove that the Mavericks broke any NBA rule that other teams have not broken at some point themselves. The NBA doesn’t like tanking in any form, but legislating the sport outright is almost impossible while the draft process still provides incentives to lose.