Former Toronto Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo addressed his tanking comments made at the MIT Sports Analytics Conference in Toronto on Friday and admitted it was merely a poor choice of words.
Speaking on TSN Radio 1050's TSN Drive with Dave Naylor on Monday, Colangelo said he had no intention of tanking the shortened 2011-12 season, but definitely wanted a high pick in the draft.
"I wish that word wasn't used for headline reasons," said Colangelo, "but the story behind it was: how can we fix the system? How can we tweak the system to make it less likely that teams are rewarded for losing records?
"I do believe that if you're as transparent as we were at the time - with our season seat holders, our fans, the market place and the media - everybody knew what the plan was and what we were going through. It didn't make it easy to lose games but there was anticipation that games would be lost. With that comes curtain rewards and in the system that we currently play under, the team with the worst record gets the greatest odds and a non-playoff team is in a lottery that can ultimately lead to them getting top-notch talent coming to their team."
Colangelo said the team was happy getting Terrence Ross in the first round (8th overall) of the 2012 draft and would never tell a coach to lose games since it can only have negative long-term effects.
"Coach was doing such a fabulous job with the group that there certainly was no intentional losing going on because we won far too many games than anyone anticipated and it put us in a position to still get a nice draft pick in Terrance Ross," said Colangelo. "But it certainly decreased our odds of getting the top choice, which was a franchise centre in Anthony Davis."
Colangelo talked about when the team faced heavy scrutiny when they picked Jonas Valanciunas, who was selected in the first round (5th overall) in 2011.
"We got booed off the stage when the announcement was made but that was the right pick for this organization. It was not an easy one to make knowing that Jonas would not be made available for at least a year and maybe more if the buyout hadn't been successfully negotiated. We knew it was going to be a tough scenario going into a new year without the inclusion of a top draft pick but the following season we also knew that not only would Jonas be coming but another fairly high-value draft selection - unknown at the time - would be helping us as well. Not to mention we would have cap space and greater developed players at that point."
The Raptors finished the 2011-12 season with a 23-43 record, good for 11th in the Eastern Conference, 12 games behind the Philadelphia 76ers for the final playoff spot in the East, and the eighth-worst record in the NBA. The team neither rose nor fell in the lottery, receiving the eighth-overall pick in the 2012 draft where they selected Ross out of the University of Washington.
The 2007 NBA Executive of the Year (with the Phoenix Suns) was speaking at the MIT Sports Analytics Conference on a proposal currently in front of the NBA Board of Governors which would see the draft lottery and any incentive to bottom out eliminated.
"Admittedly, I will say, I tried to tank a couple years ago," said Colangelo to the conference. "And I didn't come out and say, 'Coach (Dwane Casey), you've got to lose games.' I never said that. I wanted to have him establish a winning tradition and a culture and all of that, but I wanted to do it in the framework of playing and developing young players, and with that comes losing. There's just no way to avoid that, but I never once said, 'You've got to lose this game.'"
Colangelo was relieved of his general manager position last May in favour of Masai Ujiri and eventually resigned his post as Raptors president the following month.