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

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban
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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.

Knicks reportedly very interested in Anunoby, if Raptors make him available

Toronto Raptors v Golden State Warriors
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The Toronto Raptors are the one team that could move this trade deadline from a dud to shaking up the playoff race. There are 29 other GMs waiting to see what Massai Ujiri will do, and when they called, they’ve been told “the franchise will make a decision about being a buyer or seller – or standing pat – near deadline day,” reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

If Toronto does decide to trade a player beyond the expected Gary Trent Jr., then the Knicks want to be at the front of the line for defensive wing O.G. Anunoby, Charania reports.

The Knicks and Suns are among the interested suitors in Raptors forward O.G. Anunoby, sources say. New York has shown a willingness to offer multiple first-round picks for Anunoby, according to those sources. The Suns, meanwhile, have control of all of their first-round picks — eight in total —through 2030. SNY first reported the Knicks’ interest last week.

There would be a lot of teams in line for Anunoby, but he is a very Thibodeau-style player — an All-Defensive Team level wing stopper who can finish and is averaging 16.9 points per game — so you can see where the interest comes from. Anunoby also is just 25 and is locked in next season at $18.6 million. While the demand for wings in general is lower this trade season — point guards and centers are more in demand — a lot of teams could use a player the quality of Anunoby. Including the Knicks.

Getting him won’t be cheap — two unprotected first-round picks (or lightly protected) with matching salary would be the price range.

All of that is moot if the Raptors don’t make him available, which is what everyone is waiting to see.

Report: Bucks have been given permission to talk to Jae Crowder

NBA 2022 Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks
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Jae Crowder may be the most likely player to be traded at the deadline. The Suns need a shake-up (and to get Devin Booker back), and they are sitting on a $10.2 million player that is not helping them on the court and has yet to bring back any trade value they want.

We may have movement on that front, based on reports from Shams Charania of The Athletic.

In a new development, the Suns have given permission to the Bucks to meet with Crowder and they met over the weekend, league sources tell The Athletic. The Bucks are believed to be the only team that has received permission to visit one-on-one with Crowder, those sources have also indicated…

Both the Suns and Bucks have engaged in serious trade talks for months, with current proposals surrounding Jordan Nwora, George Hill, Serge Ibaka and second-round draft compensation to Phoenix for Crowder, according to sources. The Bucks and Suns have searched for a third team to provide Phoenix with a forward – so what outcome will emerge between now and next Thursday?

Those talks between the Bucks and Crowder likely focused on his role on the team this season (backup four) and possibly re-signing him after this season (he will be a free agent).

Crowder has sat out the season after asking for a trade but is still a Sun because Phoenix head of basketball operations James Jones had a very specific ask in the trade — a forward with a similar skill set to Crowder. It’s tough to trade like-for-like in the league, so nothing has happened. It’s also why that offer from the Bucks doesn’t seem the fit the Suns want. Nwora is a forward but a fringe rotation player, Hill can help with some backup point guard minutes, but nothing really moves the needle for Phoenix. The problem is the Suns have waited so long to get a trade done that Crowder’s value has gone down — by the time he is traded, works his way back into game shape, then steps on the court for his new team he’ll be lucky to play 30 games in the regular season. Teams aren’t going to give up as much for a rental.

The report states the Heat also are interested, which is not a shock they want a P.J. Tucker-like player at the four and Crowder fits the bill, but putting together a trade that works for both sides is difficult (unless the Suns suddenly fell in love with Duncan Robinson, which would be a bigger trade). The Hawks come up, but there is a growing sense around the league that the new Landry Fields-led front office is less inclined to trade John Collins, and they may ride with him at the four.

It’s likely Crowder gets traded somewhere at the deadline and the Bucks maybe make the most sense, but this deal could have been done long ago if the sides wanted to.

Free agent Candace Parker announces she will sign with champion Aces

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The WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces are about to get better.

Two-time MVP and two-time WNBA champion Candace Parker announced she plans to sign with the Aces when free agency opens on Feb. 1

The WNBA champions just got better — a starting frontcourt of Parker and reigning MVP A’ja Wilson (with Kelsey Plum in the backcourt) could make Las Vegas the best defensive team in the league. While Parker may not be the scorer she once was, she can serve as a fulcrum for the offense, get the ball to the other players on the deeply talented Aces, and make them a serious threat to repeat.

Still, a cloud hangs over the Aces organization after what Dearica Hamby alleged after she was traded to the Sparks. Hamby said she was “lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against” by the Aces front office surrounding her pregnancy and contract. Those are serious allegations, and the WNBPA is looking into the matter.

On the court (if the investigation results don’t weigh them down), the Aces have to be title favorites now. However, when WNBA free agency comes on Wednesday that could shift, depending on what Breanna Stewart chooses to do (along with other key free agents). There has been speculation Stewart could head to New York to team up with Jonquel Jones, Betnijah Laney and Sabrina Ionescu on a Liberty team that would instantly be the biggest threat to the Aces (if not the outright favorite).

Stay tuned, it’s going to be an interesting WNBA free agency.

Three things to Know: Giannis Antetokounmpo puts up 50 spot in 30 minutes

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Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Giannis Antetokounmpo puts up 50 spot in 30 minutes

Before the ball was even tossed up at center circle Sunday, this looked to be a long night for the Pelicans: No Zion Williamson (strained right hamstring), no Brandon Ingram (toe injury) and no CJ McCollum (sprained right thumb).

Then Giannis Antetokounmpo went to work early, scored 18 points in the first quarter, 29 in the first half, and went on to have an efficient 50 on 20-of-26 shooting on the night, including hitting 3-of-4 from 3.

The All-Star Game captain is having a “down” season by his insane standards, but he is still averaging 31.3 points and 12 rebounds a game, shooting 64.5% in a season where he has had to take on more offense load because of Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday missing time. He’s still one of the best in the game, and if healthy the Bucks are still a postseason threat (even if they could use some depth at the four).

This was eight straight losses for the Pelicans, who are 3-11 in January and have fallen all the way to the No. 8 seed in the West. New Orleans has looked like a dangerous team on the rise when healthy this season, but the injuries have caught up with them and now they are scrapping to stay in the play-in in a crowded middle of the West.

2) Hornets get 31 from Rozier, upset sleepy Heat team

It will be hard for Miami to hold onto the No. 6 seed in the East (and avoid the play-in) if they don’t win the games they are supposed to win.

Miami looked sleepy for the 1 p.m. start in Charlotte, didn’t play good defense down the stretch, and fell to the Hornets. Charlotte got 31 from Terry Rozier, 27 from P.J. Washington, LaMelo Ball scored 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, and Gordon Hayward was 7-of-7 shooting for 20 points. Charlotte snapped Miami’s three-game win streak with the 122-117 victory.

To be fair to the Heat, sometimes it’s about when you catch teams and the Hornets are playing their best basketball of the season having won 4-of-6. Jimmy Butler scored 28 points for Heat, Tyler Herro added 24.

This was the start of a four-game road trip for the Heat and things are about to get tougher with games at the Cavaliers, at the Knicks (a key game in the chase for the No. 6 seed) and at the Bucks.

3) LeBron James, Anthony Davis out in Brooklyn Monday night

The epidemic — and league-wide PR problem — of stars sitting out will continue Monday night as LeBron James and Anthony Davis will rest as the Lakers face the Nets (officially, LeBron has a sore left ankle and they are watching the foot injury that sidelined Davis for 20 games). This is the team’s one trip to Brooklyn this season. It comes a day after Kawhi Leonard and Paul George sat out in Cleveland (the Cavs blew the Clippers out as a result), and the list goes on and on all season long with Stephen Curry, Jimmy Butler and other stars seemingly resting more than ever before.

There is no easy answer here. Coaches and team medical staffs tasked with ensuring their players peak for the playoffs are resting guys during the season (and on back-to-backs) to avoid injuries and fatigue. Top players have their personal trainers monitoring them and weighing in on these decisions. The NBA schedule is still too long — but reducing that number is a financial mess — and there is nothing in the upcoming CBA that will change this trend.

But fans are noticing. Keep showing them the regular season doesn’t matter and they will respond in kind.

In LeBron’s case — and he hasn’t missed much time this season — this pushes back the timeline for him to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time NBA scoring record to Feb. 7 against the Thunder or Feb. 9 against the Bucks, both games in Los Angeles at the crypto.com Arena. If you want to think that’s a coincidence, go ahead, but I’m a little more cynical than that.