Mark Cuban would like to ban internet reporters from the locker room

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Mavericks owner Mark Cuban questions the role of sports media in 2011 in his latest blog post, and comes to the conclusion that “internet reporters” no longer should be allowed access to locker rooms, because their interests and those of the team are no longer aligned.

That’s the short version of a much longer piece on the media, one that makes some decent points, especially coming from the perspective of a team owner. But it’s also a piece that has some flaws, particularly from a journalistic standpoint.

Let’s start with the parts that make sense. Cuban is coming at this strictly from a business standpoint. He’s looking at media outlets that contribute directly to his bottom line, which really means driving traffic not to a particular website, but specifically to his arena in Dallas. This is evidenced by the fact that Cuban puts local print media at the top of importance in terms of having locker room access.

Newspaper has to be in the room. I know this is counter intuitive to some, but it is a fact. Why ? Because there is a wealthy segment of my customer base that does not and will not go online to find out information about the Mavs.  If I don’t have a PRINT beat writer and /or PRINT columnist showing up and writing about the Mavs, both sides lose.

Dan Shanoff breaks this down in much greater detail over at Quickish.com, but again: “a wealthy segment of his customer base” means the people spending those dollars to attend games in person. From Cuban’s perspective, this makes sense. And so does another part of his piece, where he discusses the negative impact that the constant reporting of transaction rumors can have on a team or its individual players.

Cuban mentions specifically the toll that non-stop questions about rumors can take on the players, which can impact their performance, which will in turn impact the quality of the product he’s selling.

The result is that the team is often negatively impacted. Players get distracted. Team personnel get distracted and spend too much time dealing with the rumors.  Its a negative for any team.

Of course rumors wont go away if a writer doesn’t have access, but we can reduce the stress of a player having a mike shoved in his face and asked the same question day after day. We also don’t have to legitimize the writer by giving them access to the locker room.

It’s true that the follow-up reporting of trade rumors is excessive, and it must be exhausting to the players involved, regardless of whether or not they’re the ones who initiated them in the first place. (See: Anthony, Carmelo.) Fans love to play armchair GM and talk trades and rumored trades, which is why these stories generate traffic. But Cuban is wrong when he singles out “internet reporters” as being the ones pushing these storylines, because every sector of the sports media is equally responsible.

I went through two straight seasons of Amar’e Stoudemire trade rumors in Phoenix while covering the NBA (yes, as an internet reporter), and I can tell you that besides the occasional visit from a national internet writer, there were local members of the television and radio media that asked the players and coaches about it, essentially on a daily basis. Now, was Suns.com asking about it daily? Not necessarily, but they certainly would be there filming while others asked about it, and would (naturally) post the video of the players’ comments on the team’s website. Same goes for the local print media. Of course they reported almost daily on the fact that the team may be losing one of its biggest stars; how could they not?

The point here is that the possibility of a team losing an All-Star in a mid-season trade is a huge story, as is any potential trade before the deadline that would change the shape of a playoff contender’s roster. Every person in every sector of the media with any interest in reporting on the league at all is going to cover something like this until its resolution — not just the ones classified as “internet reporters.”

Near the end of his piece, Cuban asks why he can’t simply use his own media platforms to communicate with his team’s online customers, thus eliminating any potentially negative impact on his ability to sell his team’s product. The answer is an easy one.

By controlling the message, there’s always going to be a positive spin on anything the organization does — player transactions, questionable in-game decisions by a player or coach, and the list could go on and on. And that’s a problem.

Fans (i.e., Cuban’s customers) crave informed reporting on both sides of a story, and reporters with access to the team who don’t work specifically for the Dallas Mavericks are going to be the ones who will write those alternative, not-necessarily-flattering pieces.

As a business owner, Cuban isn’t wrong for wanting to control how his product is marketed. But consumers of sports thrive on discussing all types of information, from the rumored, to the positive, to the negative. Blaming one segment of the media for covering the stories that you would deem undesirable isn’t going to change that.

Richard Jefferson: LeBron James was sick during Cavaliers-Celtics Game 3

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LeBron James was inexplicably bad in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics on Sunday.

Except maybe it was explicable.

Cleveland forward Richard Jefferson, via Fox Sports Ohio

I know he won’t talk about it, so I’ll give my big guy a shout. Deron Williams missed shootaround this morning, because he had like a little bug, just really lethargic, had no energy. And I think that’s what Bron had. And sometimes these little bugs can go around.

When Deron didn’t show up to shootaround, it kind of started clicking in his head. Because for him it was more of like, “I don’t know why I was so lethargic, why I had no energy, I had nothing.” And so, these little things happen. There was no panic.

Look, he was lethargic. They hit a bunch of tough shots. If Marcus Smart doesn’t go 7-for-10 from 3, then we’re not even talking about it.

I don’t know whether LeBron was truly sick or Jefferson is just trying to help a teammate’s reputation. It can be both.

LeBron was better in Game 4, but not quite right.

If he’s dealing with a minor illness, that could clear up by Game 5 tomorrow. It should especially clear up by the Finals, which begin June 1. That’d be great news for the Cavs, who have no chance against the Warriors if LeBron isn’t at full strength.

The uncertainty of why LeBron hit a slump now of all times loomed over Cleveland’s playoff future. But Jefferson provided reason for the Cavaliers to breathe easy.

Michigan’s D.J. Wilson staying in NBA draft

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Michigan bigs D.J. Wilson and Moe Wagner declared for the NBA draft in similar situations – coming off breakout seasons, particularly excelling down the stretch, and sitting on the first-round bubble for the NBA draft. Neither hired an agent, leaving their options open.

But this is where their paths diverge.

Michigan releases:

University of Michigan junior forward D.J. Wilson announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and submit the necessary paperwork to remain as an early entrant into the 2017 NBA Draft.

University of Michigan sophomore forward Moritz Wagner announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will return to the Wolverine basketball program after removing his name from consideration for the 2017 NBA Draft.

Wilson and Wagner both said they’d stay in the draft only if they’d be first-round picks. I wonder whether Wilson got a first-round promise or is just confident enough he’ll get picked there. The latter wouldn’t be a bad bet. Even if the 22-year-old Wilson slips into the second round, this might be the peak of his draft value.

At times, it’s easy to forget Wilson is a 6-foot-11 big man. He shoots 3-pointers, dribbles and moves like a wing. He also too often shies from contact, which particularly hurts his rebounding.

But he’s a big. Those perimeter skills wouldn’t shine quite as brightly if he were matched up with opposing wings. Wilson has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, and he also protect the rim. However, his shot-blocking relies on a bounciness that’s not as effective when pressed into more physical matchups. He needs some space to launch – but when he has it, it also pays off in quality finishing at the rim.

Wilson has the tools to be a good NBA power forward, but he’s still a work in progress. In other words, he still looks like a borderline first-round pick.

Tyronn Lue imitates LeBron James’ criticism of reporter (video)

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After the Cavaliers Game 3 loss to the Celtics, LeBron James accused reporter Kenny Roda of showing up/asking questions only when Cleveland loses.

Questioned by Roda after the Cavs’ Game 4 win, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue lightheartedly lobbed the same criticism at Roda.

Coaching LeBron can be tricky. Lue must both challenge the greatest player of his generation and handle LeBron’s passive-aggressiveness. Lue can neither let LeBron walk all over him nor bark orders at him.

In this case, it seems Lue is trying to diffuse LeBron’s pettiness before it turns into something bigger. Considering how silly LeBron’s initial comments were, I bet the star is on board.

Tony Bradley becoming North Carolina’s first one-and-done in nearly a decade

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North Carolina hasn’t had a one-and-done player in eight years.

Since Brandan Wright declared for the 2008 NBA draft after his freshman year, the Tar Heels have emphasized player development over multiple years. That practice has yielded two national titles, including this year’s, in that span.

It also limited freshman center Tony Bradley’s playing time this season, as he was stuck behind seniors Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks.

But Bradley shined enough in 15 minutes per game to follow Wright as one-and-done from Chapel Hill.

Jeff Goodman of ESPN:

Bradley is a borderline first-round pick, though this late decision when many expected him to return to school indicates he believes he’ll go in the first round. There’s certainly logic in turning pro before scouts pick apart his game over a larger sample.

Bradley is huge – 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan – but he’s not explosive. The hope is someone in the Rudy Gobert mold.

Whomever drafts Bradley will hope his elite offensive rebounding is a harbinger. But why is his defensive rebounding and rim protection so forgettable?

He moves and passes fairly well for his size, but considering he’s so big, those aren’t necessarily skills for him to hang his hat on. If a teammate sets him up, he uses his size to finish well at the rim.

Beyond his size and offensive rebounding, Bradley doesn’t set himself apart one way or the other. Whether that’s good or bad depends how deep in the draft it is.