Tanking – or whatever it is – can pay off

Losing by gaining can help Magic in long run

After the all-star break, the Magic might hear questions about improving their defense, getting to the line, limiting turnovers and … whether they're really trying to win.

Sports Illustrated and ESPN already have linked the Magic to the practice of tanking.

That's a darn serious charge and with no tangible evidence ... ah, who am I kidding?

Teams tank.

But just because the 14-36 Magic are giving more time for youngsters to develop and for vets to heal from bruises — standard tanking practices — that doesn't prove a thing.

Maybe they are simply in a controlled descent after losing 12 straight and 23 of their last 25.

Just because the Magic started two second-year players and two rookies the other night — grad students, basically — it's no different than what the Golden State Warriors did last season to collect more lottery ping-pong balls.

Whatever it's called that the Magic are doing, they need to keep it going, especially if they've become enamored with Ben McLemore of Kansas.

It's just smart, prudent and a painful part of the rebuilding process: short-term sacrifice for long-term gains.

So go for it, Magic.

It's OK.

Just tank it.

The Magic would be perturbed at the suggestion they have set up themselves to lose, although their revamped, cap-room conscious roster came with that built-in accessory.

I mean, we all knew the season might be accompanied by a wink. There was every reason some unintentional intentional walks could be issued after losing Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson.

The Magic were serious about establishing a winning culture. They started a surprising 12-13 and entertained fans for a few seconds. Then came injuries, close defeats and a 10-game losing streak. What was left to gain after that – other than working on rookie Maurice Harkless' jump-shot for the 2013-14 season?

SI.com no doubt must make the Magic uneasy after recently running a story and a photo of J.J. Redick under the headline, "The Virtues of Tanking." The story also links to a piece about the Magic on ESPN.com called, "To tank or not to tank?"

Basketball purists and coaches need air-sickness bags when they hear this notion of not playing to win.

They point to integrity and fans not getting their money's worth. And the fact is, the lottery doesn't even work like it should. The club with the worst record seldom is rewarded with the No. 1 pick. Last season the Bobcats couldn't snare top prize Anthony Davis, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. Their seven wins didn't get it done.

But the lottery option can be more worthwhile than being humiliated by the Heat in the playoffs. The visiting Portland Trail Blazers lost just enough last season to draft Damian Lillard at No. 6 and aren't having second thoughts.

The Magic built their franchise on lottery luck, thanks to No. 1s that yielded Shaq, Penny and Dwight.