Good-Bye Lottery, Hello Playoffs: A Lesson in Tanking

CHICAGO IL - DECEMBER 21: Evan Turner #12 of the Philadelphia 76ers sits on the bench during a game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on December 21 2010 in Chicago Illinois. The Bulls defeated the 76ers 121-76. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

A month ago Mike discussed the dilemma presented to Sixers fans, and fans of each non-championship-contending NBA team each year. Is it more beneficial to root for losses and a higher draft pick, in hopes that your team lands the next superstar – a necessity for all NBA Champions – or is rooting for wins, a winning environment, and invaluable playoff experience the way to go?

Mike made a convincing case for each, and there is no right or wrong answer, as far as I'm concerned. It has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Last year rooting for losses was acceptable, because Eddie Jordan was such a terrible coach, so by rooting for losses, not only were fans rooting for a chance to draft a superstar, but a sorely needed coaching change as well.

This year, things are different. Doug Collins is obviously a much better coach than Eddie Jordan. He has the young Sixers playing hard, winning games, and many playing the best basketball of their careers. Currently, the Sixers are a playoff team in the top-heavy Eastern Conference, tied with Bucks for the eighth seed and only a half a game back of the seventh seed Pacers

The Sixers have enough talent, and are coached well enough where it's unrealistic to think they'll finish with a bottom 10 record this season, with or without Andre Iguodala. If you're rooting for losses, you're likely rooting for a pick in the 10-14 range opposed to a playoff birth and the fifteenth or sixteenth pick. Since the logic behind rooting for losses is being in position to draft the next superstar, going out of your way to root against your favorite team for the 10th pick seems silly, especially since the likelihood of drafting a superstar drops considerably after the fifth pick.

(12-man roster made from players drafted after the lottery over the last five seasons (2010 excluded):

PG: Rajon Rondo

SG: Monta Ellis

SF: Danny Granger

PF: Paul Millsap

C: Marc Gasol

6th man: Wilson Chandler

Bench: David Lee, Jrue Holiday, Serge Ibaka, Aaron Brooks, DeAndre Jordan, Geroge Hill

12-man roster made of players drafted in the lottery (excluding top 3 picks) over the last five seasons (2010 excluded):

PG: Chris Paul

SG: Brandon Roy

SF: Danilo Gallinari

PF: Kevin Love

C: Joakim Noah

6th man: Stephen Curry

Bench: Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, Rudy Gay, Andrew Bynum, Jeff Green, Brook Lopez)

Last year I whole-heartily rooted for losses in beginning in December, and even though I promised myself I wouldn't, when the Sixers started this season 3-13 I struggled to root for wins, especially when Harrison Barnes and Perry Jones were being touted as the next Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady

After realizing the Sixers were too good to finish with a bottom 10 record, and having watched Harrison Barnes play, I slowly talked myself out of my tanking trance. And my decision – ping pong balls be damned – has been gratified over the past few weeks with Jrue Holiday showing more and more potential at 20 years old, and Evan Turner recording the first 20-point game of his career.

If you're still rooting for the Sixers to lose every game, remind yourself exactly what you're rooting for. Are you rooting for the tenth pick? Are you rooting for the chance to draft a superstar? Or has rooting for losses become an unbreakable habit you've developed over the last calendar-year? How long can this go on? Are you going to root for your favorite team to lose until they wind up with a number one pick? What if one number one pick isn't enough? Last year the Sixers drafted second, and it's yet to pay dividends. If you root for something long enough, it becomes a part of you. The longer you root for the Sixers to lose, the more difficult it will be to root for wins. Then you're screwed. First you become mentally incapable of rooting for the basketball team you love; next thing you know you'll develop an insane alter-ego named Tyler Durden and repeatedly punch yourself in the face.

Rooting for your favorite NBA team to lose is a dangerous ploy. There's a fine line between rooting for your team to lose for the benefit of the future, and developing a subconscious dislike for the team you're supposed to love. I know because a full year of rooting for losses, or at least dabbling in it, began to slowly erode the love I once had for the Sixers. I'd be watching a game, rooting for them to win like a normal sports fan, then the opposing team would take a late lead or go on a 10-0 run, and I'd subconsciously begin rooting for the Sixers to lose. That isn't how fans are supposed to think. 

Over the past year rooting for losses has become nearly-impossible to break addiction. I can convince myself all I want that I'm rooting for the Sixers to win again, and that last year was an exception, but like any addict, once I get a taste of losing, I regress.

This will be an ongoing debate amongst Sixers fans, and NBA fans alike for years to come, and since it's heavily affected the way I think about, watch, and write about the Sixers, I've decided to create a mini-manifesto for NBA fans everywhere.

Rule # 1: If you're rooting for your team to lose, do not watch the games live.

Instead, check the box score and recap afterwards. TiVo'ing games (already knowing the outcome) works under this rule, because you won't be rooting at all, just enjoying the game. This prevents you from developing a subconscious rooting interest against your team, and makes it much easier to root for your team to win when you see fit. This is the most important rule, and never to be broken.

Rule # 2: Do not root for your team to lose until they are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs ...

This rule prevents you from unnecessarily rooting against your team for an entire season, or even half a season. The longer your team is mathematically alive, the less chance they have to win the lottery, anyway.

Rule # 3: ... unless your team has an undeniably terrible coach ramming your team further into the ground with each game.

This rule pertains to the 2009-10 Sixers. During these circumstances you're rooting for the coach to be fired more than anything, and each win increases said coach's chances of returning for another season.

Unfortunately, it'll take time to re-build my rooting interests, but a wise man once said, "Only after disaster can we be resurrected," and nothing will resurrect my rooting interests faster than a playoff birth. 

With that said, I hear-by declare #missionBJ over (sorry if you bought a shirt), and invite everyone to jump on the bandwagon for a playoff run.

Go Sixers!

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