NEW YORK (AP) — One of the biggest issues on the agenda when the NBA’s owners arrived in New York for the board of governors meetings was thwarting the tanking strategy employed most brazenly by the Philadelphia 76ers.
A proposal that would reduce the incentive for teams to lose games on purpose in an effort to get a better pick in the draft appeared to be gathering momentum earlier in the week.
All that momentum disappeared almost overnight, with enough skittish owners unable or unwilling to sign off on significant reforms that could have widened the gulf between small and big-market teams.
The proposal needed 23 votes for approval but only received 17, with 13 lining up to vote against it on Wednesday.
“I think, in essence, the owners were concerned about unintended consequences,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “I think we all recognize we need to find the right balance between creating the appropriate incentives on one hand for teams to, of course, win, and on the other hand allowing for appropriate rebuilding and the draft to work as it should in which the worst performing teams get the highest picks in the draft.”
The vote means the existing system will remain in place for now. The team with the worst record will still have a 25 percent chance at getting the top pick and cannot drop lower than fourth. The board agreed to send the issue back to the competition committee for additional study.
The reform proposal presented by the league’s competition committee would have drastically reduced the worst team’s odds of winning the lottery while also increasing the chances that the teams with the best record in the lottery field would jump up to the top of the board.
Another element of the proposal, the defeat of which was first reported by Yahoo! Sports, would have made it possible for the worst team to plummet all the way to seventh in the order.
The 76ers are at the center of the debate. General manager Sam Hinkie, with the blessing of ownership, has assembled a roster designed to lose in the present in hopes of building a foundation that can win in the future.
Hinkie has been unapologetic about his approach, believing that it provides the Sixers the best chance to not just be competitive in a few years, but to contend in the Eastern Conference.
They have already landing promising point guard Michael Carter-Williams, forward Nerlens Noel, center Joel Embiid and European standout Dario Saric by stockpiling those high draft picks, but they’ve also lost a lot of games while doing it.
Philadelphia’s strategy didn’t sit well with some in and around the league who think it compromises the integrity of the games in the present.
“I don’t necessarily disagree with the way it works now,” Silver said of the lottery. “I’d say from a personal standpoint what I’m most concerned about is perception out there right now and frankly the pressure on a lot of our teams, even from their very fans, to somehow underperform because it’s in some peoples’ view the most efficient and quickest way to get better.
“I think that’s a corrosive perception out there.”
But is there really a problem? Since the league went to a weighted lottery system in 1985, the team with the worst record has received the top pick just four times, the most recent time coming with the Orlando Magic in 2004. The Cleveland Cavaliers have won it the past two years while having the ninth-worst record and third-worst record.
Other subjects broached on Wednesday include:
—The league held a presentation on domestic abuse that Silver said focused on prevention. Silver said he doesn’t think increasing punishments is the only answer to address the issue. He said the league will implement new training for players this year and will continue to look at more changes to the policy.
—The new television contracts. The NBA is set to cash in with a $24 billion TV deal in 2016 and Silver said he is having discussions with the union about “smoothing in” the money over the next couple of years so the increase to the salary cap isn’t so dramatic in just one year. He also said one-third of the teams are still losing money, and that TV deal is expected to help that.
—Silver said it was too early to be concerned about a possible work stoppage in 2017 when both sides have an opt-out of the collective bargaining agreement. He did say he is in favor of a harder salary cap, but “putting money aside, I think the system elements are working in the new collective bargaining agreement.”
—A review of the ownership situation in Atlanta. Silver said “there seems to be enormous interest” in the Hawks franchise, but that having a buyer in place by the end of the calendar year might be “a little ambitious.”
—The league also elected Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor as chairman of the board and announced a new $30,000 scholarship in David Stern’s honor for students studying sports management.