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.

Celtics top Cavaliers in Game 5, setting up Game 7 in Boston?

3 Comments

LeBron James and a couple Cavaliers teammates left the court well before the Celtics dribbled out their 96-83 Game 5 win Wednesday.

The Cavs are already moving on.

Game 6 will be Friday in Cleveland, and the Cavaliers – down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference finals – must win to avoid elimination. The way Boston has played on the road, it’s even easy to look ahead to Game 7, which is scheduled for Sunday in Boston.

Still, the Celtics bought themselves leeway with their decisive win in Boston tonight. They led by double digits the final 20 minutes, breaking the Cavs’ momentum after two straight wins in Cleveland.

“It’s tough going on the road, playing against somebody else in their house with their crowd,” said Jayson Tatum, who had 24 points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks tonight. “So, we were just comfortable. We came back home and defended home-court like we have all playoffs.”

Boston is now 10-0 at home this postseason – but just 1-6 away. Fueled in part by that historic split, no game in this series has been close. All five have been decided by at least nine points, and the average margin of victory – 18 – is in the 97th percentile for largest ever in a 3-2 best-of-seven series.

So, just as two big Celtics wins in Games 1 and 2 didn’t deter the Cavaliers, this one likely won’t, either. The Cavs should be heavily favorited in Game 6.

Beyond, if it gets that far? That’s a much bigger tossup.

Teams up 3-2 in a best-of-seven series have won 85% of the time. But Boston is missing a key reason it secured home-court advantage, including a chance to break the 2-2 at home rather than on the road – Kyrie Irving. And LeBron James is downright scary in a Game 7, even on the road.

The Celtics at least took care of business tonight, showing a far greater sense of urgency than Cleveland. Brad Stevens changed his starting lineup, inserting Aron Baynes for Marcus Morris, and tightened his rotation to just seven players until garbage time. Boston ran the floor much harder than the Cavs, decisively outrebounded them and beat them to loose balls. Even in altercations, the Celtics had a man advantage.

LeBron (26 points, 10 rebounds five assists and six turnovers) never made his presence felt in the way usually necessary for the Cavaliers to win. Cleveland’s four other starters combined to score just 24 points, two fewer than LeBron did himself.

After Boston seized control early, the Cavaliers made few adjustments in strategy or effort – as if they’re saving those for later.

LeBron James says we don’t know full story of his upbringing, but he’ll reveal it after retirement

AP Photo/Ron Schwane
4 Comments

LeBron James was on the cover of Sports Illustrated in high school – as a junior.

He has been in the spotlight ever since, somehow living up to the outsized expectations set while he was a teenager. His story has been told and retold – how he and his mom moved around Akron as she struggled to provide for him, how his athletic ability lifted himself and those around him.

But are we missing key details?

Upon passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most shots made in the playoffs, LeBron reflected on his journey.

LeBron:

To know where I come from, you guys know a little bit of the story. But you guys don’t know the full story about where I come from and the struggle that I had. You guys know about the single-parent struggle, and y’all done heard that story. But there’s a lot more to it, which I’ll talk about when I’m done playing ball.

But to know where I come from, small city 35 miles south of here, and to hear I’m in the same category or talked about and jumping these greats in the playoffs — it’s like I was a kid and I watched the playoffs so much and I was like, I would love to be a part of that, that moment, that atmosphere. I think it’s pretty cool. You hear the scoring, the field goals made, and for a kid that really doesn’t care much about scoring.

Like with LeBron’s secret motivation a couple years ago, I’m totally intrigued. When LeBron decides to share, I’ll be all ears.

Larry Nance Jr., Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier exchange shoves after whistle (video)

5 Comments

Marcus Morris fouled Larry Nance Jr. in Celtics-Cavaliers Game 5 tonight. Nance didn’t like that, got up and shoved Morris. Morris and Terry Rozier didn’t like that, and both shoved Morris.

All three received a technical foul, which seems fair.

Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala questionable for Game 5

AP Photo
2 Comments

Andre Iguodala missed the Warriors’ Game 4 loss to the Rockets with a leg injury.

It’s not certain he – or Klay Thompson, who played through a knee injury suffered in Game 4 – will be available for Game 5 tomorrow.

NBC Sports Bay Area:

Klay Thompson, who suffered a left knee strain during the first half of Game 4, is listed as questionable, the team announced Wednesday afternoon.

Iguodala missed Game 4 with a left lateral leg contusion and is questionable for Game 5.

Anthony Slater of The Athletic:

Warriors coach Steve Kerr on Iguodala:

He’s feeling a little better today, and he’s out on the floor. Not doing a whole lot, but making progress.

Kerr on Thompson:

Klay is moving around really well. I think Klay is going to be fine.

That sounds better than “questionable” for Thompson.

The Warriors need one, maybe both, of those two on the court. Golden State’s depth, especially on the wing, is looking shaky.

In Game 4, Golden State outscored Houston by 20 in the 31 minutes Stephen Curry, Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green played together. In the in the 17 minutes they played without even one of those stars, the Warriors got outscored by 23. Nick Young, who received more playing time when Thompson left the court area due to his injury, looked particularly overwhelmed.

James Harden‘s defense is a huge bellwether in this series. The Warriors spend a lot of focus trying to exploit him, and if that fails, the shot clock gets low before they move into another action. If Thompson is even just slowed, that’d make it easier for Harden to keep up.