The National Basketball Association (NBA) is curious about why the Dallas Mavericks decided to bench many key players in the team’s next-to-last game of the regular season, despite the fact that the Mavericks still had a mathematical possibility of qualifying for the play-in tournament.
The decision-making process leading up to the Mavericks’ loss to the Chicago Bulls by a score of 115-112 on Friday was the subject of an investigation launched on Saturday by league officials. During that game, Dallas sat Kyrie Irving for the entirety of the contest and Luka Doncic for most of the game. The Dallas Mavericks were no longer in the running for a postseason berth when they lost after blowing an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter.
This conclusion also helps assure that Dallas has a top-10 draft pick this summer, giving them a potential 4.5 percent chance of winning the draft lottery and the ability to select the French phenom Victor Wembanyama.
“Today, the NBA commenced an investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the Dallas Mavericks’ roster decisions and game conduct with respect to last night’s Chicago Bulls-Mavericks game,” a spokesman for the league named Mike Bass said. “This investigation will include a look at the motivations behind those actions.”
There needs to be more clarity on potential fines. Still, before the start of the season, Commissioner Adam Silver made it abundantly plain that the league would not accept any evident attempts at tanking.
In October, Silver said, “I know that many of our NBA teams are salivating at the notion that potential through our lottery that they could get (Wembanyama), so they should all still compete very hard next season.” “I know that many of our NBA teams are salivating at the notion that potential through our lottery that they could get (Wembanyama).”
The Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd stated before the game that the decision to bench players was decided by “the organization.” After the match, Kidd also referred to the decision made by his superiors, owner Mark Cuban and general manager Nico Harrison.
Due to the fact that Irving, Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber, Josh Green, and Christian Wood were all sidelined for the win-or-else game on Friday, Dallas only allowed Doncic to play for around one quarter before taking him out of the game for the duration of the competition. On the night Doncic made a brief appearance, the Mavericks honored his home country of Slovenia by giving souvenir scarves with a Slovenian motif to the first 3,500 fans who attended the game. Doncic is a member of the Mavericks. He left the game in the second quarter’s first minute and a half.
The Mavericks stated that Irving was recovering from an ailment to his right foot, that Kleber was recovering from an injury to his right hamstring, that Hardaway was experiencing soreness in his left ankle, and that both Wood and Green were resting. On Wednesday, when Dallas defeated Sacramento, all five of these guys, including Doncic, saw action for the Mavericks.
Before Friday’s game, Kidd stated, “The organization, they made this decision,” adding, “We have to abide by it.”
Kidd added some thoughts after the game, saying, “This is maybe a step back, but maybe it leads to going ahead….” These are decisions that my superiors have made, and we are required to adhere to them. Furthermore, we have faith that Cuban and Nico will put the puzzle pieces together to put us in a position to win a championship. And that is the beginning of the procedure today.”
When it comes to the Mavericks tanking, this is not the first time the NBA has taken notice of this particular team.
In February of 2018, Cuban was fined $600,000 by the National Basketball Association for comments he made about tanking in the context of a podcast he did with Basketball Hall of Fame player Julius Erving. Commissioner Adam Silver deemed Cuban’s words “public statements detrimental to the NBA.” When Cuban spoke to Erving about tanking, the Mavericks were already well on their way to having a season ending with a record of 24-58.
In a later interview with The Associated Press, Cuban said he “deserved” the monetary penalty. According to what he claimed to the Associated Press at the time, “I got enthusiastic chatting to Dr. J and said something I shouldn’t have.”
Be that as it may, Dallas was already facing an uphill battle for the final play-in position in the Western Conference heading into Friday’s game against the Bulls. A win against the Bulls would have extended postseason aspirations but would not have guaranteed anything. To get the No. 10 seed, it needed to win Friday and Sunday and hope Oklahoma City would lose to Memphis on Sunday. Even after that, it would still need two more wins on the road in play-in games to face Denver in the first round of the playoffs.
The fact that Dallas did not advance to the play-in tournament improves its prospects of securing a spot in the top 10 of the draft that will take place this summer, which is an essential goal. Dallas will keep the pick if the Mavericks’ pick falls between the first and tenth spots. If it is selected lower than number 11 in the draft, it will be sent to New York as part of the compensation agreed upon in the Kristaps Porzingis deal in 2019.
The probe by the NBA comes just a few days after the league rejected a protest lodged by the Mavericks regarding a perplexing sequence that resulted in an uncontested basket being scored by Golden State during a game won by the Warriors by two points a few weeks ago.
After trading for Irving to play with Doncic in a suddenly starry backcourt, the Mavericks were expected to become serious title contenders. They were ranked fourth in the Western Conference in the middle of February. But that setback was just the beginning of the Mavericks’ freefall.
On the other hand, the Mavericks have a record of 7-17 over their previous 24 contests, with only Sunday’s now-irrelevant finale game against San Antonio remaining.