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Mavericks fined $750,000 by NBA for naked tanking effort at season’s end

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There is tanking, and then there is the naked, unabashed tanking the Dallas Mavericks did during the season’s final week.

Dallas owes its first-round pick this year to the New York Knicks (part of the Kristaps Porzingis trade) but it was top-10 protected. The Mavericks also had the chance to get into the Play-In Tournament as the No.10 seed if they won both of their final two games and the Thunder lost one. Hours before their second-to-last game on the last Friday of the season — days after Luka Dončić said he wanted to keep playing as long as there was a mathematical chance to make the play-in — Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban and GM Nico Harrison pulled the plug — Kyrie Irving, Josh Green, Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber and Christian Wood all were out and Dončić played one quarter (because it was “I Feel Slovenia” night in the Dallas arena). It worked, the Mavericks came from ahead to lose to the Bulls.

That move will cost the Mavericks $750,000, the NBA announced the fine on Friday. From the NBA:

The Mavericks violated the league’s player resting policy and demonstrated through actions and public statements the organization’s desire to lose the game in order to improve the chances of keeping its first-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. The league did not find that the players who participated in the game were not playing to win.

“The Dallas Mavericks’ decision to restrict key players from fully participating in an elimination game last Friday against Chicago undermined the integrity of our sport,” said Joe Dumars, NBA Executive Vice President, Head of Basketball Operations. “The Mavericks’ actions failed our fans and our league.”

The Mavericks weren’t the only team tanking this season. Some teams put together rosters this season designed, in part, to give them the best odds of landing Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson. Portland decided with a few weeks left in the season to sit Damian Lillard and its other name players to try and hold on to top-five lottery odds. Charlotte pulled back as injuries — particularly to LaMelo Ball — changed their season (as Detroit did after Cade Cunningham was lost for the season due to injury).

However, none of those other teams made such a naked turn toward tanking when they still had a real chance at the postseason — nor did they give the league the black eye the way the Mavericks did. While the Mavericks’ move may have been best for the organization long term — if they maintain that No.10 pick through the lottery it gives them a valuable trade chip as Dallas reworks its roster — how it was handled was sloppy.

And they are paying a high price for it. Literally.