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The NBA told teams to stop tanking. Nobody’s listening.

The NBA issued a fine and a warning in hopes of halting tanking this season. But teams vying for the No. 1 draft pick have called the league’s bluff.

Just as the 2018 NBA Tank Wars were getting started, the NBA league office and its leader Adam Silver made two big moves to prevent all out anarchy at the bottom of the standings. First, Silver fined Mavericks franchisee Mark Cuban $600,000 for being honest about the team’s priorities in a recorded interview. (Cuban had said it’s better for the Mavericks to lose than win at this point, which is 100 percent true.)

Soon after, Silver threatened the Bulls with sanctions if they did not return Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday to regular action. Chicago had sidelined both while healthy in order to, uh, scout young players on the roster (and, of course, lose games).

At that point, in early March, it looked like the league would actually fight the Tank Wars that were obviously coming down the pike. But as that battle for the worst records in the league has escalated, Silver has gone quiet.

There have been no further statements, threats, or punishments from the league, despite quite obvious gamesmanship among the worst teams. The commissioner made two big statements to push the dregs of the league to compete to win every night, and the dregs of the league largely called the commissioner’s bluff. Now what?

A perfect example of tanking activity is what happened with the critical Magic vs. Mavericks game on Wednesday. Going into the game, Orlando had the league’s third-worst record with 23 wins, and Dallas had 24. The team that finishes with the third worst record has strong odds (47 percent) for a top-three pick, and can fall no further than No. 6 after the lottery. The team that finishes with the fourth worst record has somewhat worse odds for a top-three pick (38 percent) and can fall as far as No. 7. As such, Magic-Mavericks was a critical game to lose. So both teams played rosters suitable to the goal.

Crunch time of the close game was particularly egregious: Orlando played Mario Hezonja, Wes Iwundu, Jamel Artis, Shelvin Mack, and Khem Birch. Dallas played Dorian Finney-Smith, Johnathan Motley, Aaron Harrison, Jalen Jones, and Kyle Collinsworth. The Magic won by five. So the Mavericks actually won.

Note that all the players went hard and tried to win. But their coaches specifically worked the rotation to minimize minutes — especially in the fourth quarter — for the teams’ best players. The players didn’t tank. The teams certainly did.

These teams are not heeding the league’s threats, quite possibly because the NBA’s policies around resting healthy players are specific and thus largely inapplicable to what the teams are doing. You know how the Bulls responded to the league’s threat about Robin Lopez? They started playing Lopez almost exclusively in the first quarter. In the Bulls’ last 15 games, Lopez has played 78 minutes in the first quarter, 21 minutes in the second quarter, 10 minutes in the third quarter, and three — three! — minutes in the fourth quarter. Mission accomplished.

All of this — the Lopez solution, Mavericks-Magic, Marc Gasol no longer playing any fourth quarters, and a dozen other examples — is a technically legal thumb in the NBA’s eye. Seriously, what can the league do about it?

The easy answer is patience: the regular season is about to end, and the NBA will be rid of all those pitiful squads until next fall. When the league reconvenes in October, a new NBA Draft lottery regime will be in place. While the new system doesn’t abolish the perverse incentives that create a benefit to be really awful instead of merely bad, it does change the calculus.

The odds will be smoothed out, minimizing the practical difference between, say, being the fourth-worst team in the league and the fifth-worst. It will still be more beneficial to be really awful instead of merely bad. But the benefit is reduced, which should deflate some of the incentive to ensure your team is really awful.

There will still be teams that go into the season intending to lose. (The Atlanta Hawks look like a top prospect for the worst record next season.) And there will surely be opportunity for situational tanking in March. It won’t likely be this widespread or blatant, though.

At least, the NBA league office can only hope it won’t be. Because what’s happening this month — and what’s still left to happen over the last five days — is an absolutely awful look.