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Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes disagree about 'tanking'

A press conference involving former Bullets great Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes featured an interesting debate on tanking, with the two legends disagreeing on the value of winning games late in the season.

Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON -- Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes, the two pillars of the Washington Bullets' 1978 championship team, spoke to reporters following the halftime ceremony to honor the title team. The two spent most of the press conference relaying memories from that championship season, but there was an interesting exchange when the two were asked about the Wizards' late-season success.

It began when Hayes suggested that these late-season Wizards wins are meaningless and actually counterproductive, and it went from there. Here's a transcript.

ELVIN HAYES: "I don't get to see them play that much. This is probably the second game I've seen them play, because being in Texas, I don't get to see them much."

"It's a great thing to have that resurgence, to win some basketball games. But it's a good and it's a negative, because of the fact that you're not going anyplace. You're getting a few wins now, but you're not going anyplace. Plus, you're losing the draft choices. You're getting to an area where you're not going to get as good a player. So, is it good to win? Be happy about winning a few games, but what good is this going to do?"

WES UNSELD: "This is where E and I disagree. You always try to win."

HAYES: "Well, you always try to win."

UNSELD: "What I've seen of them is they've gotten a few players back. That's helped them. Winning breeds at atmosphere that they're going to need next year. It's always great if you've got a feel to know what it is to win. That's a good feeling, and you always want to try to get that good feeling."

HAYES: "And that's true. But I happened to be in Houston, and I saw the Rockets get the No. 1 draft pick with Ralph Sampson and the next year with Olajuwon, and they built a championship organization down there.

"Right now, you've got [John] Wall coming up for [a new] contract. You're going to have to try to keep him, and how do you really begin to build an organization? You win a few games, but you always win at this time of the year with losing teams because of the fact that [you think] Miami coming in here, you can beat them. You're trying to make you're team say, 'Hey, this is our season. We beat them!' This is what kind of happens at the end of the season. All of the weak teams are always trying to beat the power teams. Chicago, all of these games [the Wizards have] won over some really successful teams. This is what happens."

"But still, in the long run, in the long scheme of the thing, what good do you do to drop down in the draft and try to get one of these good players coming out?"


What do you think? Would you side with Hayes or Unseld? Are they disagreeing as much as it may seem?

(Thanks to Ben Standig for audio).