The Dallas Mavericks have benefitted from two late game bad calls by the referees this season — the one above where Monta Ellis clearly fouled Austin Rivers on the final shot, and one earlier in the season that wasn’t quite as egregious but still a foul, when Shawn Marion clipped Kevin Love on the arm.
We don’t know how those games would have turned out if the proper call had been made, but if the Mavs squeak into the playoffs by a game you can bet this will come up. A lot.
In both cases, the NBA came out the next day and said “oops” and admitted those were bad calls. A reporter asked outspoken NBA referee critic (as much as he is willing to pay in fines for it) and Mavs owner Mark Cuban about those calls, here is his response, via the Dallas Morning News.
“I love the transparency,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said before Monday’s home game against Orlando. “Now if I can just get them to do the same level of transparency for the other 47 minutes, 55 seconds, we’ll really be making progress.”
Does Cuban mean that the NBA should admit to all referee calls missed during every game? Is that realistic?
“Yeah it is,” Cuban said. “Because if you’re evaluating and you’re being held accountable and you’re proud of the work you do, why wouldn’t you?”
That’s about as likely to happen as Mark Cuban buying a collection of sleeved NBA jerseys.
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The NBA’s strategy of fines for any player or coach critical of a referee is an obvious effort to tamp down criticism that would help fuel the fan perception that the NBA referees are terrible. For the league to go Cuban’s route would be a 180 degree swing and would open up a conversation about how the referees missed five, 10, whatever calls a game. And that cost Team X a game or “Joey Crawford has it in for X” conversations. The referee union would flip out, as well.
The fact remains that considering the speed of the NBA game and the nature of a sport with a lot of gray area and borderline calls, NBA referees do a pretty good job. Could be better, but they do well. Far, far better than their critics are willing to admit.