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

2 Comments

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.

Thunder’s offseason moves start here: Offer Russell Westbrook $220 million contract

Leave a comment

The narrative of Oklahoma City’s first-round playoff loss to Houston — and frankly its entire season — was about how little help Russell Westbrook was given. Game 5 was the perfect example: The Thunder were +12 when Westbrook was on the court, but he rested for 6:07 and OKC was -18 in those minutes. The Thunder’s role players are young and many — for example, Enes Kanter — are very one dimensional, but that’s because their role was supposed to be much more narrow and defined. Then Kevin Durant left and players were asked to do things outside their comfort zones, or grow up fast, and it didn’t go that well.

Thunder GM Sam Presti has some work to do this summer to tweak that roster, make it more versatile, and design it to fit better around Westbrook (not to mention take some of the load off him).

But the first thing Presti has to do is keep Westbrook — and that means offering him a five-year, roughly $220 million extension. Royce Young if ESPN has the details on how that works.

After signing an extension last summer in the wake of Durant’s departure, Westbrook can sign another in the ballpark of $220 million over five years this summer. Westbrook is signed through the 2017-18 season, with a player option on the following year, but the Thunder would obviously like to have a longer commitment from their franchise player.

The expectation is that they will make the offer, but should Westbrook decline, all that talk of stabilizing the franchise would get a little more wobbly, and with only a year guaranteed, talk of trading him could spark again. It will certainly be alarming for the front office, especially after what it went through with Durant.

It’s hard to imagine Westbrook walking away from that money — it’s about $75 million more guaranteed and one more year than any other team can offer. That’s a lot of cash to leave on the table, I don’t care how much you make in endorsements. (If Westbrook left, signed a max deal elsewhere for four years, then signed a max deal for that fifth year later, he still would get roughly $35 million less than signing with the Thunder now.) Once Westbrook is locked into place, Presti can start looking to reshape the Thunder roster.

But if Westbrook pauses and doesn’t sign, the NBA rumor mill will be moving at the speed of Westbrook in transition. The Thunder wouldn’t want to lose Durant and Westbrook for nothing, it would set their rebuilding process way back, so Presti would have to consider trades. However, because Westbrook is a free agent in 2018, he would almost have a no-trade clause — no team is going to give up much to get him without an under-the-table understanding he would re-sign in that city.

Expect Westbrook to agree to the extension in OKC. Because he likes the team — remember, he signed that extension last summer (which got him a healthy pay raise) — and because it would make him the highest-paid player in the NBA, and that would feed his ego (and pocketbook).

Once he does, Presti’s real work begins.

After tough loss, Chris Paul wasn’t having any of reporter’s inane question

Getty Images
1 Comment

LOS ANGELES — The Clippers are feeling a lot of pressure these playoffs, and they have suffered a couple tough losses at home now. That can lead to some interesting postgame press conferences, something we’ve already seen this series from Doc Rivers.

Tuesday it was Chris Paul‘s turn.

The Clippers had just dropped Game 5 at home and are staring a 3-2 deficit series deficit in the face, and they have to win those two games without the injured Blake Griffin. That’s when this exchange happened.

I was in the room with this happened. Yes, there were a lot of eye rolls when the question was asked.

This was not a rookie reporter, it was a guy who gets sound for local radio stations and has been a regular at Staples Center games for years. He knew what he wanted, a fairly standard quote about how the Clippers just need to take it one game at a time but they are confident they will be back, that they can still win the series. We have all heard it before, the kind of generic crap that is all over columns about the game and talk radio. The reporter served up the softball and, frankly, most nights savvy players just give the reporter the quote they want and move on.

Tuesday Paul was having none of it. Which led to a pretty amusing exchange, especially with the follow up that was not going anywhere.

That said, I do not know one reporter worth his or her salt who has not asked a question they regret, and been called out for it. Sometimes we get called out for good questions we do not regret. It is part of the gig.

Rajon Rondo says he will not play in Game 5, doesn’t sound optimistic about quick return

1 Comment

He tried. Rajon Rondo has seen the Chicago Bulls struggle the last two games without him as a strong defender and stabilizing influence at point guard — something nobody thought Rondo would be mid-season — and he wanted to get back on the court for Game 5 against the Celtics. He took some steps toward getting ready to play.

But it’s not happening, Rondo said at shootaround Wednesday. From Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com and K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

And it’s not just the fractured thumb.

If the Bulls are going to win this series, they are going to have to do it without Rondo.

Isaiah Canaan will get the start in Game 5, and he will set a lot of screens in a 1/3 pick-and-roll to try and get Isaiah Thomas switched on to Jimmy Butler. Canaan can do that. He had fallen way out of the rotation and is really a two-guard not a point, but with the terrible play of Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams, coach Fred Hoiberg took a gamble. It worked, at least for one game. Canaan with the other four Bulls starters — Butler, Dwyane Wade, Nikola Mirotic, and Robin Lopez — were +12 in 11 minutes together in Game 4, and played well on both ends of the court. But Canaan was buried on the bench for a reason, he shot 36.4 percent on the season, 26.6 percent from three, and he’s not a great defender. The Celtics will be prepared for him in Game 5.

Hoiberg’s best option is to lean on a no point guard lineup when it matters most, with three wings who can handle the ball in Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and probably Denzel Valentine. That could be a challenging defensive lineup and Boston will try to get the lightning quick Isaiah Thomas switched onto Wade or Valentine (neither of which can guard him). Also, this lineup would be draining and put a big load on Butler, but he could handle it for critical stretches of the game.

Cleveland OKs last chunk of financing to upgrade Cavs’ arena

Getty Images
Leave a comment

CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland officials have committed the final chunk of financing for $140 million in upgrades planned at the Cavaliers’ home arena.

The makeover of Quicken Loans Arena would include more space for dining and gathering.

The cost of renovations to the concert and sports venue is being split by the city, the team, Cuyahoga County, and a convention and visitors bureau. The final total is expected to be roughly double the initial $140 million price tag, mostly because of interest over the next two decades.

Cleveland’s share is an estimated $88 million over 11 years, starting in 2024. Mayor Frank Jackson signed off on that Tuesday.

The county already approved the deal and agreed to sell bonds for the project.

The team committed to extend its lease at the arena to 2034. It is expected the team will make a bid to host the NBA All-Star game once renovations are complete.