Tanking, draft discussed at Sloan

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BOSTON -- A former NBA general manager admitted his team tanked. A former coach called a current team, with its general manager in the room, "embarrassing" for intentionally losing. And a current general manager suggested the league completely change its draft structure.

Tanking talk buzzed through the first day of the annual Sloan Conference on sports analytics at MIT on Friday, those currently in and formerly in the league offering their two cents.

Bryan Colangelo revealed he wanted the 2011-12 Toronto Raptors, for whom he served as general manager, to lose.

"I tried to tank a couple years ago," Colangelo said. "And I didn't come out and say, 'Coach, you've got to lose games.' I never said that. I wanted to establish a winning tradition and a culture and all of that. But I wanted to do it in the framework of playing the young players, and with that, comes losing. There's just no way to avoid that."

Colangelo said Avery Johnson -- while coaching the then-New Jersey Nets, who already had traded their first-round pick -- was "smirking" after losing to Toronto by 31 points in the final game of the season. That win led to the Raptors picking eighth in the 2012 draft and selecting Terrence Ross.

Had they lost, they could have been in a coin flip for the No. 6 pick, which -- as Colangelo emphasized -- eventually became Damian Lillard.

Really, Colangelo said he was aiming even higher. He wanted the No. 1 pick, but Toronto coach Dwane Casey interfered.

"He did too good of a job in motivating his players," Colangelo said.

Former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said he wants all teams to try to win every game.

"Not what Philadelphia is doing right now, which is embarrassing," Van Gundy said in a panel that current Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie attended. "I don't care, [commissioner] Adam Silver can say there's no tanking or what's going on -- if you're putting that roster on the floor, you're doing everything you can possibly do to try to lose."

Van Gundy said he supports eliminating the NBA draft and allowing all rookies to enter the league through free agency.

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey didn't endorse that specific plan, but he also wants the league to overhaul its method for assigning draft picks.

"We have to get rid of the marginal incentive to lose," Morey said.

The NBA places non-playoff teams into a weighted lottery -- worse teams getting better odds of a higher pick -- so accusations of teams tanking to get a higher selection have long been a part of the league's culture. As the highly anticipated 2014 NBA draft approaches, those murmurs have increased.

Morey finds the speculation justified.

"It's bad right now," Morey said. "I think last year, at the end of the season, I counted like two-thirds of the teams weren't trying to win."

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