Mark Cuban would have been good for baseball

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Thumbnail image for mcuban_cheers.jpgUPDATE 2:12 am: Mark Cuban was outbid by the Ryan/Greenberg team, they came up with a huge cash bid of $385 million (plus they are taking on additional considerable debt). Cuban is out.

Good for them. Bad for us. Baseball needs some owners who are not willing to just sit back and watch the Yankees and Red Sox, and some who are not so leveraged as to hamper how they build a team. Mark Cuban could be that. He would have been good for the league.

11:05 pm: It is looking more and more like Mark Cuban is going to be the owner of Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers.

The Rangers are being auctioned off as part of a bankruptcy. When the first bids were announced, Cuban came in top bidder by $25 million, and the lawyers for the other bidding team (legendary pitcher Nolan Ryan and sports attorney Chuck Greenberg) started dropping F-bombs and talking of appeals and litigation.

But after discussing it for two hours, the Ryan/Greenberg group came back with a bid $2 million over Cuban. Then 90 seconds later — literally 90 seconds — Cuban’s group upped the ante by $15 million.

I think we know how this is movie going to end. (Editor’s note: No I didn’t. Much more Crying Game than I expected.)

Even then there are a lot of hurdles left — including MLB approving the deal, which means the other owners welcoming Cuban to the club. Is that going to happen?

I asked Craig Calcaterra, the blogger-in-chief over at Hardball Talk, our sister NBC baseball blog, if Cuban could really pull this off.

I like Cuban’s chances right now. It won’t be easy. Yes, MLB will have to approve the bid, but (a) I think that if the court says that Cuban wins and all Greenberg has is the threat of ongoing litigation, baseball will approve it just to be done with it. They don’t want to have to float loans to the Rangers for another year or how long this process would play out.  I suppose there is a small chance that MLB will simply tell Cuban to buzz off, but that’s pretty risky, I think.

There are a lot of owners who don’t want him because he won’t conform to the “keep payroll low, accept revenue sharing $$ from the Yankees and make a nice profit each year” model that so many of them subscribe to. I think the hype about Cuban is overblown, though, and is a creation of people who watch his antics during Mavericks games. He’s way less volatile than George Steinbrenner and Ted Turner ever were, and owners were fine with them.

At the end of the day, the owners will have a choice: (a) deny Cuban, continue to bankroll the Rangers’ operating expenses and risk becoming dragged into a big lawsuit that could imperil their right to approve future owners if a court disagrees with them; or (b) hold their nose and allow him in.  I think they’ll choose B.

Cuban would be good for baseball.

He is high profile. He will say what’s on his mind. But he is a very good owner. He brings a lot more than antics to the table. For one, he will push technological innovation and integration with the sport.

And he will push to win. Having owners who want to really win and not just sip rum and Coca-Cola while waiting for the Yankee dollars is a good thing for baseball. Having a liquid owner rather than heavily leveraged owners going through an ugly divorce would be a good thing for baseball.

Remember the Dallas Mavericks before Cuban took over? The franchise was as ugly as the uniforms. They had not won more than 36 games in a decade, let alone gone to the playoffs. They were a laughing stock.

Cuban changed the culture. He upgraded the facilities and was one of the first owners to buy a team plane so the players could fly charter all the time. He made changes and demanded excellence. The Mavericks have never missed the playoffs in any full season he was owner, they have never won fewer than 50 games. He has made the Mavericks a model franchise in a lot of ways.

But he still loses money on the team (covered by the fact that he also owns the American Airlines Arena they play in, plus he is stinking rich and doesn’t mind covering if he has to). Some owners may not like that, but Cuban is about the winning. Rangers fans will love him.

The Rangers are not nearly the sad franchise that the Mavericks were when he purchased them, but baseball could use a good shock to the system. It could use someone who does not easily accept the status quo.

It could use Mark Cuban.

LeBron James’ voting rights group converting arenas into polling places

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ATLANTA (AP) — If basketball icon LeBron James gets his way, NBA arenas and other sports venues around the country will be mega polling sites for the November general election.

James and his voting rights group, formed this spring with other black athletes and entertainers, are joining with other professional basketball leaders and Michigan’s top elections official to push for mega voting sites to accommodate in-person balloting amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

More Than A Vote, the James organization dedicated to maximizing Black turnout in November, shared its plans with The Associated Press on Wednesday after the Detroit Pistons became the second NBA franchise to announce plans to use its arena for voting later this year. In Georgia, Fulton County elections officials this week approved the Atlanta Hawks’ proposal to use State Farm Arena as a polling site. Plans call for the arena to serve as a countywide early voting site ahead of Election Day.

The idea, which comes after Kentucky used large facilities in its June 23 primary, is to use large spaces that allow for in-person voting while still enforcing social distancing guidelines. It also underscores the attention on the mechanics of voting amid the pandemic, with the intensity already reflected in both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden warning that state and local officials have the power to “corrupt” the election.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson called her “partnership” with the Pistons an “blueprint for other teams and leagues seeking to advance our common goal of protecting access to the vote for all.”

Lloyd Pierce, head coach of the Atlanta Hawks, said the arrangement in his city ensures “high turnout” in a safe environment. Benson, Pierce and David Fizdale, former New York Knicks head coach, will advise NBA franchises and arena management entities around the country on how to replicate the existing deals.

The Milwaukee Bucks also confirmed they are willing to use their home arena as a voting site in the most populous city in the key battleground of Wisconsin.

The coordinated push is a turnabout, of sorts, in the often-partisan jousting over voting procedures.

Some Democrats panned Kentucky elections officials for limiting in-person June primary voting in the state’s two most populous counties to Louisville’s Exposition Center and the University of Kentucky football stadium in Lexington. Voting rights advocates argued in federal court that the plan, part of culling voting sites statewide amid coronavirus concerns, would harm minority voters.

A federal judge rejected their claims, and voting proceeded without the melee that some advocates had forecast.

Now, Benson, a Democrat, is pushing the arena model not as an example of potential voter suppression, but a way to fight it. “One of our greatest challenges in protecting voters’ access to democracy this November is identifying accessible locations where citizens can safely vote in person,” she said.

Amid COVID, that could outweigh potential logistical difficulties of large sites. Lines for such venues can still be long — just as with normal polling locations — as was seen in Lexington at some points on primary day. Voters also could face traffic jams or public transit hiccups given the number of people involved. General elections also have considerably larger turnout than primaries.

Nonetheless, there’s a growing bipartisan push for large-venue voting. NFL executive Scott Pioli last week presented the National Association of Secretaries of State a plan for widespread use of professional and college sports facilities.

James’ group is officially nonpartisan. But the NBA star has been open about its emphasis on the Black community, where Trump faces intense opposition for his white identity politics. James has not endorsed Biden, but he endorsed Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016.

In Milwaukee, meanwhile, the Bucks owners, the Lasry family, are major Democratic Party donors. Bucks executive Alex Lasry helped lead the effort that landed the Democratic National Convention in the city.

Missouri man freed from prison with help from WNBA’s Moore

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A Missouri man was freed from prison Wednesday after a county prosecutor declined to retry his case, punctuating years of work by WNBA star Maya Moore and other supporters who argued he was falsely convicted of burglary and assault charges.

Moore was on hand when Jonathan Irons, 40, walked out of the Jefferson City Correctional Center. She clapped as Irons approached a group of people waiting for his release. She then dropped to her knees at one point before joining a group hug around Irons.

He had been serving a 50-year prison sentence stemming from the non-fatal shooting of a homeowner in the St. Louis area when Irons was 16. But a judge threw out his convictions in March, citing a series of problems with the case, including a fingerprint report that had not been turned over to Irons’ defense team, according to The New York Times.

The Missouri attorney general’s office unsuccessfully appealed the judge’s decision, and the lead prosecutor in St. Charles County decided against a retrial.

Moore and Irons became friends after meeting through prison ministry, according to the Times. The 31-year-old Moore, a Jefferson City, Missouri, native who starred at UConn before helping lead Minnesota to four WNBA titles, put her career on hold last season to help Irons.

Moore said in January she planned to sit out a second season and miss the Tokyo Olympics. After Irons’ convictions were thrown out in March, she told the AP her plans hadn’t changed.

“’My decision to take another year was bigger than this case,” she said at the time. “But obviously this case was in the forefront of my mind. I’m looking forward when this is done to finally getting some rest and time with my family.”

Adam Silver: Restart broadcasts may need delay to keep cussing off air

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NBA players trash talk and swear more during a game than a Samuel L. Jackson character.

That’s not exactly insider knowledge. However, most of what is said is covered up by the ambient crowd noise and in-arena music at a traditional game. Nobody at home can hear Patrick Beverley‘s stream of consciousness.

But what is going to happen at the NBA’s restart in Orlando? With no crowds and less noise, and courtside microphones can pick up everything. Including language some fans may not want to be brought into their homes.

This is why the league many need a broadcast delay — similar to the seven-second delay used on some live broadcasts — so it can drop any offensive language, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said at the Time 100 interview.

“I think often players, they understand when they’re on the floor, they’re saying certain things to each other because it’s so loud in the arena, they know a lot of it is not being picked up. They may have to adapt their language a little bit knowing what they say will likely be picked up by microphones and in all seriousness, we may need to put a little bit of a delay.”

One solution would be to have a live stream available to fans where nothing is dropped. There are those of us — hard-core NBA fans — who want to hear the trash talk, want to listen to the coaches call out the play as the defenders call out what is coming and talk about set picks, etc. We all what to hear what LeBron James is going to say to J.R. Smith on the court. That should be available to fans, along with the video game look and other customizable streams.

The league may have fan’s faces on video boards around the court and music pumped in, but this is just not going to look and feel the same. There may need to be a delay to keep some of the language off the air (that happens at sporting events anyway), but it would be fun to give the viewers the option, as ESPN did with The Last Dance.

Report: Rockets signing Luc Mbah a Moute

Rockets forward Luc Mbah a Moute
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Rockets forward Thabo Sefolosha is sitting out the NBA’s resumption at Disney World.

Enter Luc Mbah a Moute.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Like Sefolosha, Mbah a Moute is a versatile defensive forward who can make open 3-pointers and fits well into Houston’s system.

In theory.

Mbah a Moute, who played well for the Rockets in 2017-18, looked like a major loss when he left for the Clippers in 2018. But he has struggled to stay healthy. He hasn’t played in the NBA since October 2018. Houston worked out the 33-year-old in March – and didn’t sign him. That’s telling.

Expect Mbah a Moute to fall behind Robert Covington, P.J. Tucker, Jeff Green, DeMarre Carroll and Danuel House on the Rockets’ depth chart. It’d be a good outcome for Houston if Mbah a Moute helps in spot minutes.

But if Mbah a Moute proves to be effective in a Rockets uniform, that’d at least look quite natural. We’ve seen it before.