The Dallas Mavericks turned heads on Friday night when they decided to rest key players against the Chicago Bulls despite the fact that their postseason hopes were still alive.
The NBA took notice too, and they have opened an investigation into the matter.
"The NBA commenced an investigation today into the facts and circumstances surrounding the Dallas Mavericks’ roster decisions and game conduct with respect to last night’s Chicago Bulls-Mavericks game, including the motivations behind those actions," NBA spokesman Mike Bass said.
Dallas sat Kyrie Irving, Christian Wood, Josh Green, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Maxi Kleber, and benched Luka Doncic after he played the first quarter. Dallas didn't even try to hide their intention to tank, listing Green and Wood as out due to rest. The Mavericks ultimately lost, eliminating them from the postseason.
The Mavericks sat their key players because they were prioritizing their draft pick over potentially making the play-in tournament. They owe their first-round pick to the New York Knicks (as part of the Kristaps Porzingis trade) but it's top-10 protected, and losing to the Bulls gave Dallas the 10th-best lottery odds in the league.
“Things change,” Mavs head coach Jason Kidd said of the decision to sit key players. “Understanding as an organization, they made this decision. But we still have to be professionals, go out there and put our best foot forward, who can play. ... Understanding this is a situation we’re in, that the organization has made a decision to change. So we have to go by that."
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said that tanking has no place in the NBA, so it remains to be seen if the Mavericks are punished following the league's investigation.
"If we ever received evidence that players or coaches were attempting to lose or otherwise taking steps to cause any game to result otherwise than on its competitive merits, that conduct would be met with the swiftest and harshest response possible from the league office," Silver wrote in a letter to teams several years ago.
In 2018, Mavs owner Mark Cuban said on a podcast that he instructed his team that "losing is our best option," which led to a $600,000 fine by the NBA for "public statements detrimental to the NBA."