The Art of Tanking

This has actually been the most exciting part of my NBA season. Yes, better than Blake Griffin, better than the Heat’s opening day loss, better than John Wall going for the body blow on Zydrunas Ilgauskas a few nights ago. Yes, better than those things.

The Raptors trying to get the best odds of the ping pong balls bouncing their way comes this May. I wrote about the technicalities behind getting those odds last week, but this article is of a different nature. My relationship with the Raptors this season has been one of the weirdest in my young ‘fandomhood’. Watching online feeds on a tiny screen (considering my lack of a TV), my Raptors have been roughly comparable to the quality of these streams–painful, slow and frustrating. But the losses haven’t hurt as much. I used to cheer the guys on to grab a couple wins here and there and if they lost–oh, well. Losses are of more value this year making them an easier pill to swallow. This was a dead season once Bosh left. And I’m glad he left. We needed to rebuild and he couldn’t be our cornerstone. Now I’m excited for the opportunity to get one of the elite prospects in the upcoming draft and hope that he can be a superstar, alpha-dog. Hope is on the way.

But in order for that hope to realize itself in beautifully elusive Larry O’Brien trophies, we need to lose. And lose more. I had a lot of confidence in this specific Raptors team that they would be able to fulfill my wishes so I felt no need to cheer for them to lose earlier in the season. What was I going to do? Hope the shot doesn’t go in? Pray for a turnover? I couldn’t. And my Raptors delivered. They’re sitting pretty at 20 wins and in a prime position to nab one of the elite prospects.

But now as the crunch time has come upon us and the worst of the worst are jockeying for ping pong balls, every loss in essential. It moves us one step closer to Kyrie Irving, Harrison Barnes, Derrick Williams or (yes, I’ll say it) Enes Kanter. A win at home to Orlando will mean nothing tonight. Moving one step closer to a franchise changing player–VERY important. The Raptors have a lot of needs to fill, in fact I’m not sure if we have one need filled on our team. We have 5 basic needs. A point guard, a shooting guard, a small forward, a power forward and centre (sorry, Andrea).

I can easily cheer for Washington and Sacramento to win tonight. That’s reasonable. If the Wizards win and the Raptors lose, we will be tied with the Wiz for 3rd in the Tank-Ranks. The Wiz also have a dreaded matchup on their schedule with the Cavaliers, the tanking juggernauts–a nightmare matchup for any half-decent tanking team.

But can I cheer for the Raps to lose? I’m all for them resting Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon tonight to rest ‘injuries’ and I don’t mind them giving younger, less experienced players an opportunity to play–but cheer for the loss? I’m afraid I am. Granted, I’ve stopped watching the games which makes cheering for the loss a little more easy to swallow. (It’s kind of been a blessing in disguise that ATDHE doesn’t put up Raptors streams anymore). But I’m hoping for the loss. It’s for the greater good.

Now here comes the scary part. As I’m writing, Sacramento and Washington both have leads. Should I be visibly upset if the Raptors also win tonight? Can I be upset at a win? I suppose I can. With so much riding on each loss, I think I have to hope for the Raptors to bumble their way to 20-62 and try to grab one of those top players.

After this dreadful season concludes, I’ll bury it deep back in my memories and recall it only when these Raptors start winning again. So, I can take pride in that I stuck with the team during the toughest times, even if I wanted them to come out losing. Maybe those joyous times will be with Kyrie Irving or Harrison Barnes leading the way. But most likely, it’ll be with someone not even born yet. Gulp.

It ain’t healthy be a Raptors fan.

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