Mavericks owner Mark Cuban
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NBA fines Mark Cuban $500,000, denies Mavericks’ protest

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Mavericks owner Mark Cuban went off after Dallas’ loss to the Hawks last month. The Mavericks protested the game, arguing a John Collins putback shouldn’t have counted.

That went as well for Cuban and Dallas as you’d expect.

NBA release:

The NBA announced today that Commissioner Adam Silver has denied the Dallas Mavericks’ protest of their February 22 game against the Atlanta Hawks and fined Mavericks Governor Mark Cuban $500,000 for his public criticism and detrimental conduct regarding NBA officiating.

The NBA issued the following statement:

The Mavericks’ protest centered on a successful field goal by Atlanta’s John Collins as a whistle was blown for goaltending by the Mavericks late in the fourth quarter.  The goaltending call was overturned on instant replay review, but the Replay Center Official ruled that Collins’ goal should be scored because he was in the act of shooting at the time the goaltending call was made.  Dallas contends that the officials misapplied the playing rules by allowing the basket.

Immediately after the game ended, Mr. Cuban walked onto the court and approached game officials shaking his head and directing comments toward them.  This marked the second time he walked onto the court to challenge a call during the game.  Following the game, Mr. Cuban spoke to reporters in the arena and tweeted several times that night and into the next day with comments that were highly critical, personal and demeaning to the league and its officiating staff.  The next day, Dallas filed its protest of the game pursuant to league rules.  Over the course of the next several days, Mr. Cuban continued his public criticism of NBA officiating.

After a comprehensive investigation, Commissioner Silver determined there was no misapplication of the playing rules.  The Replay Center Official correctly understood the rules to require that Collins’ basket count if he was in the act of shooting when the goaltending call was made.  The Replay Center Official also correctly followed the established process of replay review.

The league’s investigation included an analysis of the game footage showing that the whistle began to sound one-fifteenth of a second before Collins gained possession of the ball.  However, it is well-established by prior NBA protest decisions that a factual determination by game officials – including replay officials – that is shown in a post-game review to be incorrect is not a misapplication of the playing rules.  While officials strive to get every call right, games cannot be replayed when, after the fact and free from the need to make rulings in real time, a different judgment about events on the playing floor can be made.  For these reasons, Commissioner Silver found that the extraordinary remedy of granting a game protest and replaying the last portion of a completed game was not warranted.

The NBA further determined that Mr. Cuban’s conduct toward game officials – along with his public criticism of NBA officiating, the officiating program, and individuals who work in the league’s Referee Operations Department – violated NBA rules.

It is a recognized part of sports for fans and the media at times to criticize officiating, but team executives must be held to a higher standard.  A team owner’s effort to influence refereeing decisions during and after a game creates the perception of an unfair competitive advantage and thereby undermines the integrity of the game.  Demeaning league employees also creates an intimidating workplace environment.  With an increased focus on respectful conduct by coaches, players and fans during games, the actions of team executives should set an example and not lower expectations for appropriate behavior in our arenas.

Unlike fans or the media, team executives are provided with several formal channels to voice their concerns with the league office about officiating.  In fact, their input – including Mr. Cuban’s – has helped the NBA enhance its officiating program through improved management, training, transparency, and technology.  These enhancements include:

  • The Labor Relations Committee, chaired by Charlotte Hornets Chairman Michael Jordan, overseeing officiating.
  • The league office increasing its collaboration with the Competition Committee – comprised of team executives, coaches, players and referees – to provide regular input on the playing rules and officiating-related matters, which most recently led to the implementation of the Coach’s Challenge.
  • The development of the NBA Replay Center and the Last Two-Minute Reports to increase accuracy, transparency, and consistency of calls.
  • Hiring seasoned executives from the top levels of business and the U.S. military to manage league operations, and shifting our top-ranked on-court referee (Monty McCutchen) to oversee the training of new referees in the NBA, WNBA and NBA G League.  This includes creating several senior referee management positions to fill the role of retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, the former Superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy and the Academy’s first female Rhodes Scholar, who recently left her role as Senior Vice President and Head of Referee Operations for family reasons.
  • Exploring new technologies, like artificial intelligence, to better understand and thereby improve officiating, including with respect to goaltending and other calls that are particularly difficult to make in real time.
  • Utilizing analytics to evaluate and rate officials, including tracking every call of every game made by every NBA official, and soliciting feedback from head coaches after every game.
  • Expanding the pipeline of NBA officials from a more diverse pool of candidates.

Officiating is one of the toughest jobs in sports.  While officials remain accountable for their on-court performance, maintaining competitive fairness and the integrity of the game is a fundamental obligation of the league office, team owners and personnel, and players.

This is tied for the fourth-largest known fine in NBA history. That doesn’t count Cuban agreeing to donate $10 million as part of a settlement after the investigation into the Mavericks’ predatory workplace environment.

It’s impossible to forget that episode as the league says, “Demeaning league employees also creates an intimidating workplace environment.” This is a running issue with Cuban.

So is criticism of officiating, and his latest tirade really attacked the entire system.

The NBA’s response reads as particularly vicious. The league doesn’t explicitly say Cuban is against Michael Jordan and The Troops. But this statement at least allows room for that inference.

What a wild – and for Cuban, costly – back-and-forth.

J.R. Smith caught on video beating up man who allegedly vandalized his truck

J.R. Smith
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Sunday was a day of mostly peaceful protests in Los Angeles in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota last week. However, some bad actors used the protests as camouflage to loot and vandalize businesses and property near the protests.

One of those people allegedly broke the window of former NBA player J.R. Smith’s truck — and Smith ran him down and beat him up for it. Video of the beating emerged first on TMZ. (Warning, NSFW language.)

Smith quickly posted a video on his Instagram story trying to get out in front of this, saying the guy broke his truck window in a residential street — and Smith was having none of it.

“I just want you all to know right now, before you all see this s*** somewhere else. One of these little motherf****** white boys didn’t know where he was going and broke my f****** window in my truck. Broke my s***. This was a residential area. No stores over here. None of that s***. Broke my window, I chased him down and whooped his ass.

“So when the footage comes out and you all see it, I chased him down and whooped his ass. He broke my window. This ain’t no hate crime. I ain’t got no problem with nobody and nobody got no problem with me. There’s a problem with the motherf****** system, that’s it. The motherf***** broke my window and I whooped his ass. He didn’t know who window he broke and he got his ass whooped.”

It’s unknown at this time if any other legal action will come out of this, the police and prosecutors have a lot on their plates right now.

Smith was out of the NBA this season, despite getting a couple of workouts with teams.

George Floyd’s death brings back painful memories for Rockets’ Thabo Sefolosha

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Thabo Sefolosha knows what it’s like to be a black man, on the ground, being beaten by police officers.

Such was the scenario when George Floyd died in Minneapolis last week.

And five years ago, Sefolosha found himself in a similarly frightening place.

“I was just horrified by what I saw,” Sefolosha said. “That could have been me.”

Time has not healed all wounds for Sefolosha, the NBA veteran who said he was attacked by a group of New York Police Department officers in April 2015 while they were arresting him outside a nightclub in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood. The leg that was broken in the fracas is fine now. The emotional pain roared back last week when he saw video of Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air in the final moments of his life as a white police officer — subsequently charged with murder — pressed a knee on his neck.

Sefolosha has seen the video. He hasn’t watched much news since. His experience with police in New York has left him with a deep distrust of law enforcement, the pangs of angst flooding back even when he walks into NBA arenas and sees uniformed officers. And the latest example of police brutality left him even more upset.

“People talk about a few rotten apples,” Sefolosha said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But you know, in my experience and from what we’re seeing, I think it’s deeper than that as a culture that’s deeply rooted in it, to be honest. That’s just my honest opinion. I think it’s really … part of a culture where it’s deeper than just a few bad apples.”

The four officers who were involved in the incident where Floyd died were fired; the one who knelt on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Massive protests have broken out in several cities in recent days, the country torn again over a black man dying at the hands of police.

Sefolosha — a black man of Swiss descent who plays for the Houston Rockets — considered but decided against joining protests in Atlanta, where he is waiting for the resumption of the NBA season that was shut down in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m mad, for sure,” Sefolosha said. “That’s for sure. I mean, it’s 2020. Nobody should have to go through this in this time, especially after black people have given up so much for America. Black people have given up so much and done so much for this country. It’s hurtful to see it this way.”

Sefolosha’s perspective changed forever on April 8, 2015. Chris Copeland, an NBA player at the time, was among three people stabbed outside the club where Sefolosha was that night; police arrived and ordered everyone to leave the area. Sefolosha says he complied but began getting harassed by officers anyway.

Before long, he was on the ground.

Sefolosha’s leg was broken and some ligaments were torn in the fracas, and he was arrested on several charges that a jury needed about 45 minutes to determine were unfounded. He wound up suing for $50 million, alleging his civil rights were violated, settled for $4 million and gave much of that money to a public defenders’ organization working in marginalized communities.

“It changed me a lot, toward the way I see law enforcement in this country,” Sefolosha said. “And also toward the way I see the whole justice system. I went to court and I had to do all of this to prove my innocence. It really got me deep into the system and I’m really skeptical of the whole system.”

NBA players have used their platforms often in recent years to protest racial inequality. Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee Bucks filed a federal civil rights lawsuit after police used a stun gun on him and arrested him over a parking incident in 2018. On Saturday, Malcolm Brogdon of the Indiana Pacers and Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics were among those taking part in Atlanta protests.

“You see what happened in Minnesota where three human beings with a badge are watching another human being killing somebody,” said Sefolosha, who has played in the NBA since 2006 and intends to return to Switzerland when he retires. “And instead of saying, ‘OK, this is my duty as a human being,’ the duty was more toward not interfering with the other officer and saying, ‘We are clan, we stick together no matter what.’ It should be the other way around.”

The NBA is closing in on finalizing a plan to resume the season in July at the Disney complex near Orlando, Florida. Sefolosha and the Rockets figure to be contenders for a championship when play resumes.

For obvious reasons, Sefolosha’s mind isn’t there yet.

“I’ll be happy to be with my teammates and reunited with basketball in general,” Sefolosha said. “But you know, we’re human beings, and the fight has been going on for too long and the same protests have been going on for too long. I think it’s definitely time for change and that should be a priority for all of us.”

Michael Jordan releases statement: “I am deeply saddened, truly pained, and plain angry”

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Michael Jordan has been famously apolitical through his playing career and after, rarely commenting on social issues. While the “Republicans buy shoes, too” comment has always stuck to him, as Roland Lazenby points out in his biography “Michael Jordan: The Life,” Jordan’s “keep your head down and don’t draw attention” political outlook was passed down as a family demeanor used to survive in rural North Carolina.

However, in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis Police officer, and the eruptions of protests nationwide, Jordan felt compelled to speak and released this statement.

Jordan’s voice is a powerful one and carries a lot of weight, as do his actions.

How he uses that voice, and the actions he takes going forward, will be watched and can hold a lot of sway.

 

On this date in NBA history: J.R. Smith forgot the score

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There comes a point in almost every NBA playoff series when one team knows it’s beat. That team threw its best punch and the other team took it and won anyway. While no NBA team would never go into the postgame press conference and say “we’re beat,” it shows up in their tone and body language.

In the 2018 NBA Finals, that moment came after Game 1.

Two years ago today, May 31, the Cavaliers went to Golden State and were on the verge of stealing Game 1 on the road. LeBron James had targeted Stephen Curry on switches to keep the Cavaliers ahead, LeBron thought he drew a charge on Kevin Durant but it was overturned on review and called a block, and a back-and-forth end of the game saw the Warriors go up one when Curry drew and and-1 foul on Kevin Love with 23.5 seconds left.

Of course, the Cavs put the ball in LeBron’s hands out top, the Cavaliers got the switch and had Curry trying to guard LeBron, when LeBron threw a bullet pass to a cutting George Hill. Klay Thompson hooked Hill, and Hill went to the ground. The foul was called and Hill went to the free-throw line.  He hit the first and tied the game 107-107.

Then came the moment.

“He thought we were up one,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said after the game, although Smith was selling at the time he was trying to bring the ball out to get a better shot. The Warriors players thought he was trying to get the ball to LeBron, maybe.

Game 1 went to overtime, where the Warriors dominated (17-7) and got the win. After the game, you could feel it around the Cavaliers — this was their chance and they missed it. The series ended in a Golden State sweep.

It’s a legendary moment of the NBA Finals, even if it’s one Smith and Cavaliers fans would like to forget.