Report: Mark Cuban hired former FBI agent to investigate league, referees after 2006 Finals

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In the annals of NBA referee conspiracy theories, the 2006 NBA Finals are up there with the Tim Donaghy betting scandal and a handful of others offered as “proof” by the tinfoil hat crowd that the fix is in and it comes all the way from the top.

In that series an aggressive and attacking Dwyane Wade got a lot of calls as he drove the lane on Dallas, while jump shooter Dirk Nowitzki and the other Mavs didn’t get the calls. Wade was at the line an average 18.3 times per game over the final for games of that series and seemed to get the benefit of the doubt because he was the aggressor.

Mark Cuban was so livid he hired a former FBI Agent to look into if things were fixed.

That according to John Canzano of the Oregonian who did a five-part series on officiating in the NBA.

During the 2006 NBA Finals, Cuban was frustrated after a Game 5 loss to the Heat, and went on the floor to vent to official Joe DeRosa, glaring, too, at Stern in the stands. Earlier that same playoffs Cuban also criticized how the officials are selected for the playoffs. He was fined $450,000 for those two incidents….

Retired FBI agent Warren Flagg, a 20-year veteran of the bureau, said he consulted with Cuban after that playoff debacle. Flagg now runs his own New York-based investigation and security firm. He looked deep into officiating, as Flagg said, Cuban was considering a lawsuit.

“Cuban asked me what he should do,” Flagg said of the 2006 Finals. “I told him, ‘Sue and you’ll win your case,’ but he knew he’d be killing the Golden Goose.”

When asked about his discussions with Flagg, Cuban said: “I don’t remember.”

What did you expect the guy with the investigation business to say, “I couldn’t find anything?” That’s not how he gets paid.

Officiating in the NBA is far from perfect, something these playoffs have clearly shown. Canzano’s series does a great job in looking at both that and the perception problems it creates for the league. Adam Silver is trying to be more transparent with officiating corrections, but there needs to be more public accountability. There is a fantastic part of the series that talks about the power struggles within officiating crews and how that can skew calls. There’s more.

All of that leads to some to make the next leap to conspiracy theory. But just as is the main flaw with almost any conspiracy — the illuminati, the CIA killed Kennedy, Area 51, etc — it counts on large groups with sometimes competing interests plus often inefficient organizations to maintain perfect secrecy and focus on the end game. The league with its owners and all those referees couldn’t do that if they wanted do.

A bad call is just a bad call. If you don’t want to be subject to the whims of calls late, win the game by 20. Otherwise this is just part of the contest.

LeBron James admits Warriors pose one of biggest challenges he’s faced in Finals

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LeBron James is used to being the underdog in the NBA Finals. It started with the first time he got a team there, the 2007 team where after LeBron the two leading scorers were Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden — that team was not really Finals worthy and the Spurs showed that with a sweep.

Entering his seventh straight NBA Finals in 2017, the Cavaliers are again heavy underdogs. When asked about the challenge these Warriors — now with Kevin Durant — pose LeBron was nothing but complimentary, speaking to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“It’s probably up there,” James said after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice. “I mean, it’s up there. Obviously, I’ve played against four Hall of Famers as well too, with Manu [Ginobili], Kawhi [Leonard], Tony [Parker] and Timmy D [Tim Duncan] on the same team. And if you add Pop [Gregg Popovich] in there, that’s five Hall of Famers.

“So it’s going to be very challenging. Those guys are going to challenge me. They’re going to challenge our ballclub. This is a high-powered team, and I’ve played against some other [stiff competition]. I’ve played against Ray [Allen], KG [Kevin Garnett], Paul [Pierce], [Rajon] Rondo and Doc [Rivers]. So it’s going to be very challenging not only on me mentally, but on our ballclub and on our franchise.”

The Warriors bring four of the top 15-20 guys in the NBA (depending on where you want to rank Klay Thompson), with two of then in the top five with Durant and Stephen Curry. However, what makes the Warriors more dangerous is the way they buy into the offensive system, move the ball and set screens/move off it, all of which makes them greater than just the sum of their parts. Well, that and the fact they had the second best defense in the NBA this year.

Cleveland, however, is probably the team best suited to beat them. Nobody has a good answer for guarding the 1/3 LeBron/Kyrie Irving pick-and-roll, Kevin Love is one of the best power forwards in the game, they are strong on the glass and can be impressive on defense (the challenge will be doing it consistently this series, they haven’t had to up to this point). Ultimately, LeBron is the great equalizer, he is the best player in the game.

All that said, Las Vegas oddsmakers have Golden State the heavy favorites (those odds are a reflection of what the betting public thinks). If LeBron and the Cavaliers pull this off, it will be one of the biggest upsets in NBA Finals history.

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

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Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.

 

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.