The NBA fined the Dallas Mavericks $750,000 on Friday, saying the team engaged in “conduct detrimental to the league” by sitting out most of its key players against the Chicago Bulls on April 7 despite still having a chance to reach the postseason.
The league’s investigation, which took less than a week, said Dallas violated the league’s policy on resting players and had a desire to lose that game to the Bulls “in order to improve the chances of keeping its first-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.”
Dallas sat Kyrie Irving for the entire game against the Bulls. Luka Doncic played about one quarter, presumably getting minutes because the Mavericks had scheduled a tribute to Doncic’s home country, Slovenia.
The Mavericks blew an 11-point fourth-quarter lead, lost and were eliminated from postseason consideration.
“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, the head of basketball operations/executive vice president for the NBA. “The Mavericks’ actions failed our fans and our league.”
Losing that game and missing the play-in tournament could help ensure that Dallas has a top-10 draft pick this summer — and with it, potentially a chance of winning the lottery and getting the opportunity to select French phenom Victor Wembanyama.
Having a top-10 pick is important, because otherwise, Dallas wouldn’t have it at all. If the Mavs’ pick is between No. 1 and No. 10, Dallas keeps it. If it is No. 11 or deeper in the draft, it conveys to New York as part of the compensation agreed to in the Kristaps Porzingis trade in 2019.
The league said it did not find that the Dallas players who participated in the game were not playing to win. Dallas coach Jason Kidd said before the game that the decision to sit players was made by “the organization” and after the game referenced the decision as being made by his bosses — owner Mark Cuban and general manager Nico Harrison.
Dallas had Irving, Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber, Josh Green and Christian Wood all out for that win-or-else game, plus limited Doncic. The Mavs cited right foot injury recovery for Irving, right hamstring injury recovery for Kleber, left ankle soreness for Hardaway and rest for both Wood and Green.
It’s the second time that the Mavericks were fined after a look into potential tanking.
In February 2018, the NBA fined Cuban $600,000 for comments about tanking during a podcast with Basketball Hall of Fame player Julius Erving. The Mavericks were well on their way to what became a 24-58 season when Cuban spoke to Erving and discussed tanking. Commissioner Adam Silver called those “public statements detrimental to the NBA.”
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