It's a dirty topic, this. Slightly controversial. Unpopular. The sort of thing, as Colonel Jessup would say, "you don't talk about at parties." But it's there all the same, every time an NBA team is bad, but not quite bad enough: Tanking.
Much has been written about the phenomenon in recent years. With his pre-Garnett Celtics the most obvious tankers in basketball history, Bill Simmons basically wrote the book on what he calls "fan-tanking," or the desire of a fan to see his or her favorite team actually ... lose. The justification? That by tanking a season in which the team wasn't going to win anything anyway, they provided themselves a better shot at the lottery and a better shot at a better future.
There are various degrees of tanking, but we find it less applicable to really, really bad teams. After all, anything can happen in the lottery, as both the Bulls and Celtics have proven (the Bulls with their almost-impossible No. 1 overall draw last year, and the Celtics by missing out on the Oden/Durant sweepstakes a year before.) Tanking is actually more applicable to middle of the road teams, the teams that might, if they really try and really scrap and really get it together, get the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Whoop de doo.
What does that seed actually do, besides remove a team from the lottery? What's the point of extending the season into the playoffs when there's no chance -- this is how the NBA works -- of the No. 8 seed advancing? The No. 8 seed in the East is literally the worst place to be as a professional basketball team. (Don't believe me? Ask the Wizards.) There isn't any. Which is why, after last night's ugly win over the even-more-hapless Kings, we're begging the Bulls: Don't make the playoffs.
Think of all you could do with another lottery pick. There are already young assets on the team. Joakim Noah, for all the guff he gets, is an efficient player; Larry Hughes has a nice big expiring contract coming up; Kirk Hinrich is the off-point-hybrid guard plenty of teams need. There are trade options here. But any trade involving these options would look so much better complementing Derrick Rose and another top young player next season. (Pipe dream time, but Blake Griffin! Blake Griffin! Oh, to salivate over Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin!)
So that's our pitch, Bulls. Bless ya for trying, but this year, you're just not very good. You're -- what's the word? -- rebuilding. So take that rebuild to the next step. Start losing even more. Trust us, fans will understand. What are a few extra playoff-preventing losses between friends?