Appearing on The Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday morning (video link), Mavericks owner Mark Cuban admitted that after his team was eliminated from the playoffs this season, the franchise “did everything possible to lose games” and improve its draft position. As Cuban explained, once they get on the floor, all players will try to win, but management can put a team in a position to lose by giving extended minutes to young, inexperienced players.
The Mavs’ approach to regular season games down the stretch was hardly a secret, and Dallas wasn’t the only team to go in that direction. The Suns, for instance, shut down players like Eric Bledsoe well in advance of the end of the regular season in an effort to improve their lottery standing. Still, teams rarely acknowledge that strategy publicly, making Cuban’s admission somewhat surprising.
Cuban’s comments also come just a few months after he stated that his club had no interest in tanking. About a month into the season, with the Mavs off to a league-worst 3-13 start, Cuban insisted that the team believed in always competing, adding that he didn’t want his players to develop any bad habits.
“There are so many teams that became four years away from four years away because guys just learned how to lose,” Cuban said in November. “They stopped caring about any individual game and just got used to it, and you don’t want guys developing those bad habits. We have so many young guys on this team, we want the games to mean something. Not to be, ‘OK, who are we going to pull in the fourth quarter so we can lose this game?’ That’s not how teams develop good habits.”
It will be interesting to see whether Cuban, who has faced many fines over the years for his criticism of NBA referees, will face any penalties from commissioner Adam Silver for his acknowledgement of the Mavs’ end-of-season tanking.
The Mavs ultimately landed the No. 9 spot in this year’s draft, with Tuesday’s lottery results not affecting their draft position.