Mark Cuban would have been good for baseball

6 Comments

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.

Take that for data: NBA preps for expanded betting on games

Mark Makela/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Here’s a scenario: LeBron James is four assists and three rebounds shy of a triple-double after three quarters. A bettor, who is watching at home and utilizing a mobile app, decides to gamble that James will get those assists and rebounds in the final 12 minutes. The wager then gets made before play resumes.

The NBA wants that bettor to see the best possible data.

So the league is seeking to get stats out quicker than ever.

Fast isn’t fast enough for the NBA anymore, not when it comes to stats – especially now that the U.S. Supreme Court has opened the door for states to allow wagering on games. The league has upgraded its stat systems in the past year to try and get its data out as close to real-time as possible, even aiming to beat the typical lag of 7-15 seconds that it takes for television or streaming services to show whatever happened.

It’s about what the NBA calls official data. The league’s stance is that getting accurate stats to bettors is critical so the player knows what they’re betting on and the casinos will know when to pay out or not. But how much value that data has for casinos – and whether they will pay anything for it – remains unclear.

“My view is we should be compensated for our intellectual property, but we can do that directly, again, with commercial relationships with gaming establishments,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, whose league had hoped this matter would be resolved with federal regulation instead of various policies getting worked on state by state by state.

Silver met with betting officials in Las Vegas earlier this month, and how data should be provided was one of the topics on the agenda. The NBA has said it is seeking a 1 percent “integrity fee” on wagers, which the league said would offset their additional security costs and compensate them for the data they can provide.

The casinos, however, are balking at legislative mandates insisting upon the use of official data. Joe Asher, the CEO of bookmaker William Hill USA, told The New York Times that such a mandate “sets up monopoly pricing power. This whole thing of official league data is like a smoke screen.”

It’s a major issue to work through, especially if in-game betting – people betting on various aspects of games after they’ve already started – catches on in the United States the same way that it has in the United Kingdom.

In-game betting, which is huge in Europe, is still relatively small in this country. Most Nevada bookmakers say in-game options make up no more than 5 percent of their sports-wagering business, although William Hill has said it accounted for nearly 25 percent of its sports business in the U.S. during 2017.

Only a handful of states have legalized sports betting since the Supreme Court decision in May, though several more states are expected to get operations up and running in the next year or so. Bettors now have been largely playing the basics – will Team X beat Team Y by more than six points, will the teams combine to score more than 210 points, that sort of thing.

“There’s a couple things about official data that make it advantageous for sports betting,” said Scott Kaufman-Ross, an NBA vice president who oversees fantasy sports and gaming. “Most is the speed. … That’s important for in-game betting.”

The NBA switched last year to software provided by Genius Sports, a London-based company that collects and distributes official data for dozens of sports federations around the globe and even recently completed a deal to work with the NCAA. The NBA data collected by Genius has been distributed globally by Sportradar, which sends it to media outlets, broadcasters and betting outlets outside the U.S.

Sportradar, the NBA said, is now working on obtaining the ability to send the data to U.S.-based betting entities.

NBA stat crews all generally work the same way: a primary caller uses a code to describe a play as it happens, a primary inputter uses a touch-screen tablet to punch in what he or she hears the caller say into the headsets that the crew share, a secondary inputter cleans up any mistakes, and a secondary caller is in contact with league offices in Secaucus, New Jersey, and reviews any plays that need additional study.

Those various crews, many members of which have received training during the summer league in Las Vegas, are the ones who decide who gets an assist or a rebound.

“The NBA has always been front and center on rapidly deploying statistics, first because of our television partners and then the Internet happened and that was good for the Internet,” said Steve Hellmuth, the NBA’s executive vice president for media operations and technology. “So it’s kind of always been in our DNA.”

Report: Stephen Curry also skipping Team USA minicamp

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

In 2015, then-USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo declared a minicamp mandatory for invited players who wanted a chance to join Team USA in the Olympics the following year. (Colangelo didn’t exactly stick with that.)

New USA Basketball chairman Martin Dempsey isn’t bothering to set such a hard line a year before another major competition – the 2019 World Cup.

LeBron James will miss next week’s minicamp, and so will Stephen Curry.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Golden State Warriors All-Star guard Stephen Curry will not be in attendance for Team USA’s minicamp next week in Las Vegas, league sources tell ESPN.

The two-time NBA MVP, according to sources, will be spending time with his family, including his newborn son.

Curry and James will not be eliminated from consideration moving forward.

Curry and LeBron have both played all the way through the NBA Finals the last four years. I don’t blame them for taking time for themselves. They’re also good enough to still get onto Team USA in 2019 if they want to play. They have leverage other players might not.

If Kawhi Leonard is looking for attention-grabbing cover to attend the camp, he won’t get it from the NBA’s two biggest stars. If Leonard participates, he’ll be – by far – the biggest story there.

Are Raptors viable trade destination for Kawhi Leonard?

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Lakers, Clippers, 76ers and Celtics have dominated Kawhi Leonard trade discussions for most of the summer.

But the Raptors have emerged as a trendy pick for the star’s destination. One betting site even gave Toronto even odds against the field – including the Spurs – as Leonard’s team to begin next season.

Are the Raptors actually a realistic landing spot for Leonard?

Brian Windhorst and Zach Lowe of ESPN discussed on The Lowe Post podcast.

Windhorst:

Toronto Raptors, I think they’re in the driver’s seat for Kawhi. Because I think the Lakers have given up. The Sixers have given up. And with the Nets, Bulls and Hawks spending their cap space, it makes it harder to assemble a multi-team trade. I think the Raptors are in the driver’s seat.

Lowe:

I’ve seen a lot of snark on Twitter that the Raptors stuff is a joke, that the odds went up because of something I said on my podcast and you said on TV. I’ve seen it being dismissed. It may not happen. Most NBA trades don’t happen. But if you think it’s a joke, you should probably recalibrate your expectations.

The Raptors can construct an offer built around:

Because DeRozan and Lowry earn more than Leonard, the Raptors could also take back a costly contract San Antonio wants to dump.

Such a deal would allow the Spurs to remain competitive now while gaining long-term assets under greater team control than Leonard, who can walk in unrestricted free agency next summer.

It’d also give the the Raptors a championship chance they wouldn’t have next season otherwise. The window might not remain open long considering Leonard’s health and contract status, but there’s something to be said for raising the ceiling when it can reach that level – even if it means lowering the floor. Plus, if Leonard left, Toronto could more easily transition into its next phase than if DeRozan and Lowry remained on the books.

This trade framework makes too much sense for the teams not to discuss it. But whether that’d result in an actual deal is another question.

Report: Kawhi Leonard considering participating in Gregg Popovich-led Team USA minicamp

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Spurs want to repair their relationship with Kawhi Leonard and keep him long-term. Leonard wants to leave San Antonio. Potential trade partners want to know more about his health and mindset.

Something has to give.

Maybe it will next week.

Spurs president/coach Gregg Popovich, taking over Team USA, will direct a minicamp in Las Vegas. Leonard is invited and – in a surprising development after he missed the few months of the season due to a quad injury – might actually play.

Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard is seriously considering participation in the USA Basketball national team’s minicamp in Las Vegas next week, an event for the embattled All-NBA forward to showcase the status of his recovery to prospective trade partners, league sources told ESPN.

Among NBA teams and USA Basketball officials, there is a belief that Leonard wants to participate in the camp, but could be dissuaded based on ancillary concerns.

Leonard holds some enthusiasm for showcasing his revitalized health in the wake of the quad injury that has been at the center of discord between the Spurs and him, sources said. The question being debated, sources said, is whether participating in the Team USA camp will ignite trade talks that deliver him to his preferred destination — the Lakers — or give the Spurs more cause to hold on to Leonard and push him to report to training camp in September.

For what it’s worth, there is conflicting reporting about Leonard’s preferred destination. Some say it’s the Clippers.

This low-intensity camp won’t be a chance for Leonard to prove he’s fully healthy, but he can show enough to ignite trade interest. Maybe that helps propel him out of San Antonio – though if it’s not to Los Angeles, how much would that mean to Leonard?

The camp could also give Leonard and Popovich a chance to reconnect. Depending on whom you believe, maybe some in Leonard’s camp or even Leonard himself don’t want to give the Spurs boss that opportunity.

If Leonard goes to Las Vegas, it’d become a media circus. All his movements and interactions, especially with Popovich, would be closely scrutinized. At one point, I would have figured the reserved Leonard would want no part of that. But I now believe we incorrectly assumed too much about him just because he’s quiet.

So, I’m not entirely sure what he wants – or what direction participating in this camp would send him.

Leonard knows more about the former. It’s on him to evaluate the latter.