I grew up in eastern Idaho about an hour from Yellowstone National Park. A lot of my early memories of Yellowstone are connected in some way like Yellowstone fires 1988 or the constant reminder at school that Yellowstone is a supervolcano, and if it erupted, we’d be the next Pompeii but with cows and potatoes.
The most interesting event that I remember was The reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone in 1995. At the time, there was a huge backlash for reintroduction among local farmers and ranchers. A boisterous minority, the ranchers were convinced that wolves would leave Yellowstone and prey on their cattle. I’m not sure if there was a wolf protest outside of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, but it was a big story in that area. Despite protest from local ranchers, the wolves have been brought back and have been a huge success for the local ecosystem.
I know this is supposed to be about basketball, but you’ll see what I’m up to here in a second.
Prior to 1995, wolves were exterminated from the area around the 1920s. From then on, the numbers of elk and deer grew exponentially and this growth led to Consequences for other animals. An example of the problem of overpopulation is the damage to various plants in the area. Due to overpopulation, there were not always enough grazing fields for elk and they were grazing various plants such as trees and berries. In search of food, elks would enter rivers and graze the grass on the banks leaving the water cloudy and smashing the river banks that would provide areas for the fish to lay their eggs. As the trees died from the bark, the beaver population shrank. On top of the damage done to rivers from grazing, without Beaver dams, groups of fish struggled more to lay their eggs. The ripple effect of not having the wolves was enormous.
With the reintroduction of Wolves, Yellowstone has changed in more ways than ever. With the wolves feeding on the elk, their numbers have shrunk to a normal level and there is no shortage of grazing fields anymore. Because of that, trees grew again that were dying from feeding the elk. With more trees, the beaver population grew, creating more dams. These dams helped the fish population grow by providing shelter and breeding grounds. With more fish in the river, and more berries available, the number of bears grew. Perhaps the most surprising thing was that with the return of the Beaver Dams, bends in the river that had not existed before appeared. The landscape of the park literally changed with the return of the wolves. All because of the 41 wolves being brought back to Yellowstone Park.
What does that have to do with basketball?
Well first, calm down. Second, the NBA is also a fragile ecosystem and the rules and regulations in place can leak in massive ways. The tank always comes with a mixed bag of reflexes. Just mentioning the word will make some people react as if you just told a dirty joke they didn’t appreciate, while others would agree it’s an integral part of building some NBA team.
Recently, we’ve seen two brawling matches including Victor Wimpanyama and Scott Henderson that set the league on fire. Immediately afterwards, Adam Silver took the time to state that “teams need to be competitive next season”.
Adam Silver on Victor Wimpanyama: “I know a lot of the NBA teams rejoice at the idea that they can potentially get him through the lottery, so they should all be fighting hard next season.” pic.twitter.com/sW93zDOFwG
– Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) October 6 2022
Interestingly, he did not mention tanks, perhaps because he understood something that might seem counterintuitive. Tanking is a good thing for an NBA product and here’s why.
with the Utah Jazz On the downside, Danny Aing did the right thing to blow it up and reset the championship schedule. It also happens in conjunction with a chance in the best possibility we’ve seen since LeBron James, well, we’ll just pretend that’s a coincidence.
There are some jazz fans who still loathe the idea of losing in a strategic sense but most fans have gotten to grips with it and are now embracing it. Yes, Utah won’t be winning many games for a few years, but it’s a necessary step to get high-level talent in the future. Regardless of how local fans feel, the league’s ecosystem has improved.
The 2-star Jazz Trading has only improved the talents of two mid-level competitors. The Timberwolves and Cavaliers were both teams that competed on level playing and just rose to established playoffs, and will remain so for years to come. One team getting worse while two getting better looks like good athletes and the overall NBA product improves. As Utah disappears without revealing its identity next season, two teams will now have more national TV matches, and those games will be even better.
Not only will these two bands improve, but the promising youngsters from their bands will have the opportunity to develop with jazz. They will have a chance to improve in a way they never had before. Both teams have improved in this ecosystem, and fans are getting a better product.
Jazz is not over. During the season, the other contenders for the championship will be looking to make a move to improve their odds and you can bet the Jazz will be one of the teams they call for improvement. A contender will want someone like owner Beasley or Jordan Clarkson to improve one of their positions or fill a gap from injury, it’s only a matter of time. This makes for a better clincher product as it will be the best possible version of every team on Earth competing.
Like the densely populated elk herds of Yellowstone, the reservoir makes the herd healthier and helps everyone else in the ecosystem thrive.
But what about jazz lovers? Doesn’t that only make small market teams a farming system for larger markets desirable?
To some extent maybe, but only when teams are ready to move players and I would argue that this is not an issue with tanks. Yes, Donovan Mitchell wanted to get out and he wanted to go to New York but wouldn’t Kevin Durant want to get out of New York for a different situation? The NBA has to figure out a way to fix this problem as players try to get out of contracts early, but trying to stop tanks won’t solve that.
What getting rid of the lockers will do is remove a lot of hope and publicity for the smaller market teams. Imagine hearing all the rumors for years about Donovan Mitchell to New York and knowing that keeping him was your only option. How awful would that be!?! With the moves in this off-season, the Jazz have given their team a chance in a championship because the only way to get that is by having 1-2 NBA-caliber players/first-team best player. Danny Ainge has taken control of the future of jazz and given jazz fans hope once again. If they succeed, jazz will have the chance to craft a player they wouldn’t have had a chance to get otherwise. Remember that every great player was in the draft. Be it John Stockton, Karl Malone, Andrei Kirilenko, Deron Williams, Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, then Victor Wimpanyama. Draft is the only way the Jazz get their stars and so the strategy should always be to use the draft to get these guys.
If you take that away from jazz, you’re telling jazz fans that they should give up all hope for a potential title because there’s no way to get these guys any other way. Sure, the Jazz team made deals for cute courtesy stars like Hornacek and Conley, but those moves were made after the stars were already drafted.
The other element in it is that it provides publicity to these teams that you rarely get. Among the Lakers clips, the jazz was one of the biggest storylines of all the NBA’s off season and it was a lot of fun. No one will ever forget this moment with Brian Windhurst.
Most of what the national jazz media mentions are the same tired storylines you hear all season but this off season it was different. Sauron’s national media eye was closed to Utah and Donovan Mitchell to see what they would do. More podcasts and TV have happened on ESPN and other media than I’ve seen while writing about this team. And even though it was nearing the end of the last season of jazz basketball, it was fun. Shall we take that from a jazz fan, too?
Tank makes small market teams more relevant and makes them an important part of the evolving NBA ecosystem.
This should be pretty obvious but events like NBA DraftSweepstakes night, free agency, and trade deadline are just as interesting for NBA fans as gaming, if not more, and it makes sense when you think about it. Sure, there is a group of fans who love the NBA in general and enjoy watching who’s in the playoffs. But I think there are more fans out there who are rooting for a particular team or one player, and when they’re not in the playoffs, those other events become more important. I can’t even imagine what the electric lottery night will be like to see who gets Victor Wimpanyama and the NBA needs to count on it because it’s the team championship that’s going downhill. If anything, tanks could become the NBA’s version of Stranger Things’ upside-down mode. Why not track down the tank and see who can climb to the top? You can bet that every fan of the lottery team this year will be more committed to seeing who gets the Wimpanyama rather than watching 6-8 teams with an actual chance of winning the title.
I don’t know if Adam Silver agrees with this, but he should see some of these benefits. As long as there is a draft, there will always be some form of tanks, especially in the game and the league where winning depends on having two or two stars on your team. Settling the lottery odds certainly helped, but it’s still there as it should be.
Regardless, all of these things are really fun and should be embraced. Whether your team is making the big trade, signing up as a big free agent, or winning the lottery, these are all parts of the fan base and are part of the NBA ecosystem. Attempting to remove this ingredient can have more negative side effects than the NBA realizes.
If there’s anything Adam Silver and the National Basketball Association should find ways to make these events more important. Make sure there is plenty of time and lead to the lottery. No games for 2-3 days before the lottery for the media to go viral. Make everything an event and give him the right space and respect.
The NBA is a fragile ecosystem, and harming one of its most important elements would be detrimental to the league.