Sam Hinkie smiled as KJ McDaniels walked into his office.
“Hey, KJ, good to see you. I am almost done with my work. Please, take a seat.”
The rookie looked around warily and the office of his GM. It was furnished as one might expect; a lavish desk with a throne-like chair to sit on, and some smaller, less comfortable chairs for those who wished to speak to the great man.
The walls, however, we decorated non-traditionally. In lieu of the usual of framed pictures depicting nature scenes, or reproductions of famous artworks, there were photos upon photos of tanks. Military tanks with treads, aquarium tanks with fish inside, pictures of girls in tank tops, tanks of all kinds.
KJ sat down, nervously waiting for Hinkie to speak.
The 76ers GM put away the papers he was looking at and smiled again at McDaniels. “Now, I understand you have something you want to talk to me about?”
“Uh, yeah, yeah I did.” KJ responded, regaining a bit of confidence after seeing his boss’ jovial manner. “I’ve been reading some stuff online about us, and…”
“Don’t believe what you read on the internet, KJ.” Hinkie interrupted. “It is the home of those who wish to mislead and deceive.”
“I don’t know, man, they had some good points. They say we’re tanking, which I ain’t never heard of before. So I look it up and that mean’s that we intentionally losing! I ain’t down with that, man. KJ McDaniels goes hard all the time, he plays to win!”
Sam looked amused at KJ’s suddenly aggressive demeanor. “Come on, KJ, calm down. None of your teammates are intending to lose games, none of your coaches are sabotaging your efforts. Let me explain.”
KJ looked wary, but did not speak again.
“Tanking is widely misrepresented in the media. It is never our intent to tell players or coaches to lose on purpose. Never. It betrays the beauty of the game of basketball, is antithetical to the spirit of Naismith himself. Anyone who cared to watch one of our games would see instantly how hard you guys play every single second. Especially you, KJ, your hustle and heart are well-known.”
Sam smiled again. “Damn right indeed. But while you and the coaching staff are not intending to lose, it certainly is the case that the front-office and I set this team up to fail. No sane person could look at the roster we have constructed and imagine that team making the playoffs, or even winning 30 games. It is garbage in every sense of the word.”
KJ looked angry again. “Watch who you’re callin’ garbage, man.”
“I didn’t mean to imply anything about you personally, KJ!” Hinkie replied, laughing. “Just speaking in generalities. What we have done is not correctly called tanking. It is called ‘rebuilding’, and is something all teams must do, a natural process of death and rebirth, in the manner of a phoenix. Do you understand now?”
“Man, this whole thing don’t sit will with me. Is it too late to request a trade?”
“Have a good day, Mr. McDaniels.”