Winderman: New NBA head of officials doesn’t mean change, technology does

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Since the Tim Donaghy fiasco, we’ve had the NBA offer up a former referee and a retired two-star U.S. Army general to oversee officiating. Now, former NBA player Mike Bantom, a long-time NBA executive, takes over.

Granted, Ronnie Nunn (the former referee) and Ronald Johnson (the retired general), mostly remained in the background as officiating supervisors, with Johnson taking over shortly after the Donaghy gambling revelations.

But the greatest advances in officiating are not “people” issues. And that means the Bantom hire ultimately will not alter the landscape.

Where the NBA has made its greatest strides since Donaghy are the technological advances, extending replay to include out-of-bounds and flagrant-foul situations, now moving into the goaltending realm.

While there can be no guarantees that another rogue official doesn’t make his way into the pipeline, or turn rogue while in the system, the greater the amount of secondary oversight, the greatly diminished chances of a referee unduly influencing the outcome of a game.

Or even trying, knowing his whistle might not be the ultimate whistle.

For those concerned about the “fix being in” (yes, that is David Stern’s blood you hearing percolating at the very mention), what the NBA has done is largely eliminate the chance of a game’s “ultimate” call being influenced by a referee’s personal influence. The camera, the NBA hopes, doesn’t lie.

If anything, establishing a “replay official” on site would go even further to diminish concern about bias, perceived or otherwise. Instead of having the officials who make the calls review the calls, there instead could be a qualified, perhaps older, official, one not necessarily up to the rigors of full-court sprints, making the ultimate decision. Retired referee Steve Javie showed us the value of an outside officiating view during the NBA playoffs on ESPN and that experience certainly could be brought back into play, even with the knees no longer willing.

Mike Bantom likely will do just fine as an officiating administrator, just as Ronnie Nunn and Ronald Johnson did.

But officiating questions don’t start in the executive suite, they start on the court, with the whistle.

The best way to clean up that whistle, or, in fairness to the current officials, keep that whistle pure, is to layer enough at-the-moment oversight so such issues don’t fester.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Salah Mejri kicks at Patty Mills as Mavericks and Spurs leave court for halftime (video)

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Mavericks center Salah Mejri has a history of agitating, including against the Spurs.

Two years ago, Mejri dunked while Dallas got blown out by San Antonio and yapped at the Spurs bench – drawing laughter from Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan. Last season, Mejri had Trevor Ariza and other Rockets trying to confront him after reportedly saying something about Ariza’s family.

In the Mavericks’ win over the Spurs on Tuesday, Mejri got into it with Patty Mills.

Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com:

Mejri and Rudy Gay received double technical fouls, and Mejri went to the bench. Everything could have cooled down at halftime, but Mejri escalated tension

Watch the full sequence above, but the key moment:

giphy (2)

That’ll probably draw a fine.

NBA introducing 2-for-1 All-Star voting days

AP Photo/Chris Carlson
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The NBA changed its All-Star format this season from East vs. West to captain-picked teams (though still naming players equally from each conference).

That apparently wasn’t a big enough overhaul.

After including media and player votes last year, the league is making All-Star starter selection even more complex.

NBA release:

NBA All-Star Voting 2018 presented by Verizon will tip off with an early voting period exclusively on the NBA App and NBA.com beginning Thursday, Dec. 21 at 1 p.m. ET.

Voting via all other channels, including Amazon Alexa for the first time, will launch on Monday, Dec. 25 at 11 a.m.

Additionally, new for this season, five “2-for-1 Days” will allow fans to have their votes count twice on Dec. 31, Jan. 4, Jan. 11, Jan. 12 and Jan. 15 when voting through the NBA App and NBA.com, along with Sina Weibo and Tencent in China.  All “2-for-1 Days” will be designated 12 a.m. – 11:59 p.m. ET.

TNT will reveal the All-Star Game starters, including the two captains, on Thursday, Jan. 18 during TNT NBA Tip-Off

The network will announce the reserves, as selected by NBA head coaches, on Tuesday, Jan. 23 during TNT NBA Tip-Off at 7 p.m. ET. 

The team rosters for NBA All-Star Game 2018 in Los Angeles will be revealed on Thursday, Jan. 25 during a special one-hour edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off at 7 p.m. ET.

I suppose this is to drum up interest on otherwise quiet voting days. After all, this is really just about the NBA selling itself.

But the All-Star voting process has always left something to be desired. I don’t see how this changes that.

Report: Lakers ‘longshot’ to sign LeBron James

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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Preeminent NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski called it “likelyLeBron James would sign with the Lakers or Clippers next summer. The Clippers have since been somewhat debunked as a LeBron destination. There’s circumstantial evidence linking LeBron to Los Angeles.

Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

So imagining James’ last act coming in purple and gold isn’t without basis. But as of now, it’s also a longshot, according to league sources.

Shelburne and Windhorst are highly credible. I doubt they’d report this without connected sources.

LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, and manager, Maverick Carter, have recently publicly downplayed the importance of Los Angeles to LeBron. That felt like a coordinated attack on the LeBron-Lakers rumors, and this fits as a continuation.

But why wage that campaign? To keep the Cavaliers focused while LeBron still plays for them, even if he might leave after the season? To lower expectations among the Lakers’ massive fan base, so as not alienate those people (potential customers of the many LeBron-connected brands) when LeBron inevitably signs elsewhere? Both could be true, but there’s obviously a difference between each driving LeBron’s camp.

DeMarcus Cousins barrels in for powerful putback dunk over Bucks (video)

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When DeMarcus Cousins builds up a head of steam like this… poor John Henson (and kind of Khris Middleton).

This helped the Pelicans pull away for a 115-108 win over the Bucks last night.