Before this NBA season even begun, the anti-tank Sixers talk started. And once the team crawled out of the gate, losing over a dozen games before pulling off a win, the talk got louder and more vitriolic. The Sixers were “embarassing.” They’d lose to Kentucky. They were a “disgrace.” Bill Simmons shit all over the team last year. It was open season, and writers were having a field day.
Though far from amazing, the Sixers have won three of their last four. They have only the third worst record in basketball, and are closer to the eight seed than the fifth seed is to the first. That counts as progress.
Meanwhile, the New York Knicks have five wins and 35 losses. They’ve dropped 15 straight. They’ve been keeping Carmelo Anthony out of the lineup and dealt away two of their only other offensive threats to clear cap space. That is a tank. Yet the only people calling the Knicks a disgrace seem to be Knicks fans who are fed up. The Knicks are a total disaster, but many writers still can’t bring themselves to knock them down in comparison to the Sixers. Here’s what one writer said on FanSided:
[Phil] Jackson is no dummy. He’s been around long enough to realize this one absolute truth about the NBA: to truly turnaround a franchise you must increase your odds and assets with an eye towards the NBA Draft. Remaining in the middle of the pack just allows you to die a slow death year in and year out.
Here’s what Matt Moore at CBS Sports said about the Phil Jackson tank:
It’s very easy to look at this team now, having obviously given up on the season and openly tanking with a team full of D-League caliber players (and that’s not a bad thing) and say that they’re doing the right thing.
Kevin Kernan at the New York Post — not exactly the bastion of … well … anything — actually seems pretty mad about it, while CBS New York’s John Schmeelk bows down at the altar of Phil Jackson so hard he may have hurt himself:
This is not Team Titanic or Tritanic. The ship isn’t sinking. It is being scuttled. The Knicks are tanking, and tanking the old-fashioned way: with gross incompetence. A superior tank to the Sixers’ intentional tank.
A superior tank. That is where we are now. When the Sixers structure their team in a way to build for the future, it’s a disgrace to basketball and the commissioner needs to step in. But when one of the league’s premiere franchises in the country’s top media market decides to start tanking because they’re so embarrassing and incompetent that it’s all they can do, all of that “you’re ruining basketball” outrage is nowhere to be found.