The Mavericks snapped their four-game losing streak on Monday, picking up their first win since owner Mark Cuban was fined $600K by the NBA for his comments about losing being in the team’s best interest. Following Dallas’ win over Indiana on Monday, veterans Dirk Nowitzki and Harrison Barnes weighed in on the subject of tanking, disputing Cuban’s idea that a series of late-season losses are best the franchise.
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“You don’t really want a culture here that’s just giving up and quitting and not playing hard,” Nowitzki said, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “I think it just sets the wrong tone for the future. … I think it’s important for our young guys to learn how to compete and to compete all the time, play hard. You play your minutes hard. That’s the only way to get better. That’s the only way to play in this league, and whatever happens after the season, we’ll just go from there. But for now, you play your minutes hard and you play to win.”
As MacMahon details, Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle – who spoke before the All-Star break about focusing on “player development” over the season’s final two months – has reversed course to some extent in the Mavs’ last couple games. Carlisle got his veterans plenty of playing time, particularly in the fourth quarter, during Saturday’s loss to the Jazz and Monday’s win over the Pacers.
Carlisle’s approach is endorsed by Barnes, who acknowledged that the tanking issue is one that’s hard to avoid, but suggested that the team should still be doing what it can to win games. Like Nowitzki, Barnes said that the act of tanking can lead to bad habits that become hard to shake.
“Any time you don’t play to win or you’re just kind of going through the motions, that can become contagious,” Barnes told MacMahon. “That can become a habit, and that can become your culture. ‘Oh, it’s OK for us to do this. Oh, it’s OK for us to not give full effort.’ Then next season rolls around, and you can’t flip that switch. It’s still that malaise that you had from the year before.