05 August 2014

Tanking and Rebuilding Are Not The Same

Tanking and Rebuilding
When Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) expansion teams were allowed to pick quality players and yet they chose marginal and role players, they justify it as saying that they are rebuilding. When these two same teams failed miserably in practice games and questioned on their year-long goals, they are allegedly tanking to pick quality rookies next season.

We've seen these two phrases used by both Blackwater Sports and Kia Motors interchangeably when discussing free agents, expansion drafts and rookie picks, and that has to stop.

We're at the point where reporters are openly claiming that if both teams doesn't pick Larry Rodriguez or Ronnie Matias, both teams will "tank" in 2014-15. Some bloggers has been big on this claim, suggesting that both teams joined the league for media mileage only and not to offer any resistance against the heavy favourites.

We have a whole lot of different definitions of ‘tanking’ bouncing around, and none of them really make sense. And the idea that a team can pitch itself to a major talent in the expansion draft, lose the opportunity and decide to suck – it doesn't even make sense!

In my opinion, tanking is an act, not a plan. If I were the arbiter of basketball definitions, to tank would be to intentionally lose one or more games through abnormal rotational decisions, no take-charge player available and management decision to field in a roster that are not even fit for barangay leagues.

Tanking. Two teams opted to pick laughable unprotected players when a once-in-a-lifetime expansion draft opportunity opens itself to them, and one of those teams claim that they can’t afford to match the salary offered to bench player as a reason for not picking him? Tanking. The Kia Motors choosing boxing legend Manny Pacquiao as head coach when quality tacticians are available such as Franz Pumaren and Luigi Trillo (now with the Meralco Bolts)? These two examples could be candidates as the most egregious tanking ever.

The Rain or Shine Elastopainters trading some of their quality players in exchange for future draft picks and contracts? That's not tanking, that's rebuilding. And the reality of rebuilding in the PBA is that the draft is the best, most efficient, most effective and often the most painful path. It's long, arduous and it works. Even if you bail out on it early you need the picks because ... other teams are doing the same damn thing.

The anti-tank crowd will bash teams for not putting together a competitive team while bashing other teams for overpaying for marginal players (San Miguel Beer teams?). If we're going to "fix" tanking, focus on actual tanking and punish bad teams (and their fans). Being awful is not punishment enough. Demoting the consistent bad teams to the D-League should suffice for now.

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