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.

Report: Heat to explore Hassan Whiteside trade options

Associated Press
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Is there much demand for Hassan Whiteside around the NBA marketplace?

The pro-Whiteside camp can point to some raw numbers: He averaged 14 points and 11.4 rebounds a game this season (and 17 and 14 a season ago), he shot 54 percent from the floor, and had a PER of 24.1.

However, his shortcomings were on full display in the playoffs. In the first two games, when Philadelphia played small, Whiteside didn’t have a place on the court and saw limited minutes. When Joel Embiid returned things got worse — in the three games matched up against Embiid, when Whiteside was on the court the Heat were outscored by 11.9 points per 100 possessions. Whiteside played just 10 minutes in Game 5, where he was 0-of-4 from the field, picked up three fouls, and was -14. All through the series, Whiteside complained about his lack of minutes.

Whiteside and Erik Spoelstra are not on the same page, and the Heat would like to move him in a trade… but good luck with that. From Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

The Heat is expected to explore a Whiteside trade, with the center due $24.4 million and $27.1 million in the final two years of his contract.

In a tight financial market, the Heat are going to struggle to find a team with the space (or willing to create the space) to take on $51.5 million over two seasons. Even if they do, the Heat are going to have to attach sweeteners — multiple first round picks, or a pick and young players that interest teams (Kelly Olynyk or Bam Adebayo, for example). It’s going to be a lot to give up to get out of that contract. Maybe in the summer of 2019, when the market loosens up and Whiteside is an expiring contract, they more easily can find a deal. This summer it would be difficult.

But expect the Heat (and Whiteside’s agent) to look for a trade. It’s time to part ways, it just may not be that simple to do.

PBT Podcast: What went wrong and what’s next for Trail Blazers?

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It was embarrassing, and left both fans and players of the Trail Blazers angry and frustrated — Portland was unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs by the New Orleans Pelicans.

Now what happens in Portland? Is Terry Stotts in danger as the coach? What about GM Neil Olshey? Would they consider trading C.J. McCollum? Is there any way to offload the contract of Evan Turner?

Kurt Helin and the Northeast’s own Dane Carbaugh of NBC Sports break it all down in this latest podcast, and Blazers fans may not like the answers. The pair also touch on other series around the league, like do the Pelicans have a shot against the Warriors? And, as required by NBA law, they touch on the Sixers run.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Pacers head to Cleveland looking to put pressure back on Cavaliers

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (AP) — The Indiana Pacers are in no better position to pull off a historic upset in this first-round playoff series with the Cleveland Cavaliers than when they awoke Sunday morning.

The Pacers had a chance to put the Cavs, at the time reeling with playoff inexperience and the crushing weight of expectations with LeBron James, squarely behind the eight ball in this series by winning Game 4.

But Indiana fell behind by a huge deficit in the first half for the second consecutive game, erased it in the third and early fourth quarters again, but couldn’t sustain the momentum. Kyle Korver and James made enough plays down the stretch for the Cavs to win, 104-100, tying this series at 2-2 with Game 5 on Wednesday in Cleveland.

James has never lost a first-round series in 12 previous playoffs. Now, he has two of the next three games at home to try and keep his streak alive.

“I think just tying the series up and coming back home is something we feel good about,” said Kevin Love, who like every other Cav not named James has mostly struggled in this series. “We feel like it’s a best-of-three type series and at the end of the day, if it comes to it, we have two games at home. We like our advantage and we’re going to use that to our advantage (Wednesday) night.”

The Pacers trailed by 17 at halftime of Game 3 but steamrolled the Cavs in the second half and pulled out a 92-90 win behind 30 points from Bojan Bogdanovic, a playoff career high. They were down 10 through two quarters in Game 4 but fought back and were ahead 93-91 with 3:49 remaining before Korver connected on two deep 3s.

Indiana won Game 1 behind a playoff career-high 32 points from Victor Oladipo, who has struggled since (19-of-53 shooting in the last three games). Domantas Sabonis played a big role in the Pacers’ comeback Sunday, scoring a playoff career-best 19 off the bench.

The Pacers are getting the best night of someone’s playoff career almost each game of this series, and it’s been good enough for two wins. Then again, the Cavs’ two wins were by a combined seven points, and outside of James (32.5 ppg this series) almost no one is scoring.

Love is the next closest at 12.0 points in this series and JR Smith is third with 10.0 points.

“We’re not losing confidence,” point guard Darren Collison said, according to the Indianapolis Star. “This team is the defending Eastern Conference champions. Whatever you want to say about them, this is a very good team. They’ve been through a lot over the last few years. We’re fine. There’s no need to overreact or panic. We’re going to go into their building and we’re going to give the same effort.”

The Cavaliers say point guard George Hill (back spasms) is questionable to play in Game 5. He missed Game 4 with the same injury — four injections before the game were not enough to ease the pain to the point where he could play.

Jose Calderon started for Hill on Sunday and scored five points in 19 minutes. The Cavs are 24-9 this year (regular season and playoffs) when Calderon starts.

Hill is the only player on either team listed on the injury report. But Love suffered an injury to his left thumb in Game 1 and it’s affected him. He’s shooting 17-of-47 in the series with 11 turnovers. Catching and gripping the ball have been obvious problems.

“I’ve been able to get up a lot of shots,” Love said. “I think initially it was painful and in the few days that followed, but now it’s kind of subsided and I’m just getting my feel back in my left thumb.”

Report: Kawhi Leonard to return to San Antonio around exit interviews. Then…

Associated Press
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Nobody is sure how the Kawhi Leonard situation is going to play out with the Spurs. As is the nature of the NBA, the GMs of other teams are starting to circle the Spurs like vultures, on the chance that this time Gregg Popovich cannot smooth out the relationship with his star player and needs to trade him. Leonard spent the playoffs away from the team, working out and talking to doctors in New York while “his group” shielded him from attempts from San Antonio to reach out.

Now has come the time for the sides to talk, and that will happen soon reports Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News.

What happens during and after that meeting is anyone’s guess.

The Spurs will only move Leonard as a last resort, and they have two things on their side. First, Gregg Popovich, who has maintained a healthy relationship with his star pupil through all of this. LaMarcus Aldridge told Popovich he wanted to be traded last summer, and over the course of some dinner meetings and self-reflection, Popovich was able to both keep Aldridge in the fold and put him in positions to be an All-NBA level player this season. The key is that both sides were willing to talk with an open mind, are Leonard and his advisors open to that?

Second, the Spurs have the ultimate hammer — the $219 million designated veteran extension (the contract James Harden and Russell Westbrook signed this year). Put that on the table and Leonard will sign it. The question is will the Spurs put it out there? Probably not if Leonard makes it clear he doesn’t want to be in San Antonio any longer. That’s when the trade talks start to gain traction.

But we’re not there yet. Not even close. Let the meetings play out first.