Silver warns tanking teams to protect integrity of the league

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With reformed rules for the NBA draft lottery coming after this season, the worst teams in the league are rushing to take advantage of the current system on last time.

The combined record of the nine worst teams in the league since the All-Star break?

Those teams, separated by just six games headed into play Wednesday night are 3-25.

In other words, there is a lot of tanking going on and with the last-place team's odds of ending up with the No. 1 pick dropping from 25 percent to 14 percent in 2019, when the same odds will be in place for the bottom three teams in the league standings, it's obvious to most what going on.

In fact, Dallas Mavericks owner MarkCuban was hit by a $600,000 fine by commissioner AdamSilver for publicly admitting he wants his team to tank, which would be in its best interests long term, according to him.

Sam Amick of USA Today reports Silver sent a Feb. 21 memo to all 30 teams outlining his fine of Cuban and putting them all on notice that the league is watching.

“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, and you as governors have taken steps to address the underlying incentive issues by adopting changes to our draft lottery system that will go into effect next year,” Silver wrote in the letter which was obtained by USA TODAY Sports. “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.

“The former can be a legitimate strategy to construct a successful team within the confines of league rules; the latter — which we have not found and hope never to see in the NBA — has no place in our game. 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.”

Silver expressed his concerns abundantly clear in the letter he sent each of them.

“The integrity of the competition on the playing court is the cornerstone of our league,” he wrote. “It is our pact with the fans and with each other, the fundamental reason we exist as a preeminent sporting organization, the very product that we sell. With everything else changing around us, it is the one thing in our league that can never change. We must do everything in our power to protect the actual and perceived integrity of the game.”