Mavericks owner Mark Cuban
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

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

Leave a comment

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.

Zion Williamson, New Orleans eliminated from playoff chase; Kings, too

Leave a comment

There was no team hyped like the New Orleans Pelicans heading into the NBA’s restart in Orlando. They had Zion Williamson healthy (or so they thought), and they had been playing the best of any of the teams in the playoff chase just before the coronavirus shut the league (and nation) down. A basketball-starved nation dreamed of a LeBron James vs. Zion showdown in the first round.

The reality of the bubble was not so kind to those dreams or New Orleans.

The Pelicans lost to the Spurs on Sunday, 122-113, despite 25 points from Williamson. Combined with the Trail Blazers beating the 76ers 124-121, the Pelicans became mathematically eliminated from reaching the nine seed and getting into a play-in series in the West.

The Pelicans are out of the playoffs. New Orleans will go through the motions of two more games in the bubble, but don’t be surprised if key players rest. The Pelicans went 2-4 in the bubble with offensive struggles holding the team back.

The Sacramento Kings also have been eliminated, extending the franchise’s playoff drought to 14 years. The last time the Kings were in the playoffs was 2006.

The Memphis Grizzlies sit as the eighth seed in the West, with Portland the ninth seed and just half-a-game back. San Antonio (one game back of Memphis) and Phoenix (1.5 games back) are both alive in the playoff chase still.

New Orleans getting eliminated ends J.J. Redick‘s playoff streak at 13 seasons, the longest of any active player and tied for seventh-longest all-time (the record is a tie at 19 between Karl Malone and John Stockton, who did it together). Getting eliminated is what leads to a 1000-mile stare meme.

 

 

 

 

Joel Embiid will not return to 76ers game due to left ankle injury

Joel Embiid injury
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Philadelphia’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad bubble continues.

Joel Embiid went back to the locker room during the first quarter of the 76ers game against the Trail Blazers and will not return to the court due to a left ankle injury, the team announced, via Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

There are no other details yet on Embiid’s condition. He has been far-and-away the best player on a Philadelphia team that has struggled through the NBA’s restart in Orlando.

The 76ers have already lost Ben Simmons, likely for the rest of this season, due to knee surgery.

Despite the injuries and rough play, Philly was 3-1 entering Sunday. However, the one loss was to red-hot T.J. Warren and Indiana, which essentially locked the 76ers into the six seed (and a likely first-round meeting with Boston).

Embiid is averaging 30 points a game in Orlando and put up a ridiculous 41 points, 21 rebounds line against Indiana.

If Embiid misses much time, the Sixers’ chances against any team near the top of the East are slim. At best.

Play-in series guaranteed in West after Toronto beats Memphis

NBA play-in
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It’s now official: There will be a play-in series to determine the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Memphis’ 108-99 loss to Toronto on Sunday means that it’s no longer possible for more than a four-game difference in the standings between the eighth- and ninth-place finishers in the West when the seeding game schedule ends later this week.

By the rules the NBA set for this season’s restart, there had to be more than a four-game cushion for the No. 8 team to get the final playoff spot outright. The league decided to add the play-in series option in an abundance of fairness, since about 14% of the regular season schedule was eliminated because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Memphis remains alone in eighth place, even after Sunday’s loss. Portland is one game behind and is in the nine seed (with a Philadelphia Sunday night). San Antonio (who beat New Orleans Sunday) and red-hot Phoenix are 1.5 games back of the Grizzlies. New Orleans is now two games back and with a difficult road to the postseason.

No team has clinched a spot in the play-in series; the Grizzlies could have assured themselves of no worse than that had they beaten the Raptors on Sunday.

Game 1 of the play-in series will be Saturday, with Game 2 — if necessary — the following day, Aug. 16. To advance and face the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, the eighth-place team will have to win one of the two games and the ninth-place finisher would have to go 2-0.

ABC will air Game 1 of the play-in series on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EDT. Game 2, if necessary, would be Aug. 16 at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN.

There will be no play-in series in the Eastern Conference; Brooklyn and Orlando have secured what were the last two available spots on that bracket, with Washington — the only other team that came to Disney with a chance of qualifying in the East — already eliminated.

The playoffs begin Monday, Aug. 17.

“Obviously, that’s what everybody’s goal is,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said Sunday.

The matchup for the play-in will be known no later than Thursday. There are four seeding games on Friday, the last day of the regular season, though none of them will have any bearing on the West matchup.

Scoring, three-pointers taken both way up inside NBA restart bubble

Leave a comment

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The last time there was a slate of five or more NBA games on the same day, with every team scoring at least 110 points, was more than 32 years ago.

That is, until the opening of the league’s so-called bubble amid the coronavirus pandemic – where it already has happened twice.

Scoring numbers are soaring inside the NBA’s bubble, where the restarted season is happening at Walt Disney World. Entering Sunday’s games, 17 of the 22 teams inside the bubble were exceeding what had been their scoring averages before the season was suspended on March 11 because of COVID-19.

Games on average have seen nine points more than what had been the norm this season. The number of 3-pointers in each contest – which had been on a record clip when the season got suspended – is up as well. And Indiana’s T.J. Warren, not even a top-50 scorer when the pandemic hit, is leading the bubble in points per game so far, averaging 34.4 and nearly doubling what was his season average.

“T.J. Warren is on a different planet right now,” Pacers guard Victor Oladipo said.

He’s not alone. The bubble is working for just about everybody, or so it seems.

There was a six-game NBA schedule on Feb. 21, 1988, and all the teams playing that night scored at least 110 points. That hadn’t happened, on a day of five or more games, again in the NBA until July 31 – the second day of bubble games. It happened again Saturday.

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle says there might be multiple reasons why the numbers are up, but foremost on the list is that the NBA has created an environment where players are comfortable.

“We came from a situation at home where players could only do individual workouts, you know, with a coach with a mask on and rubber gloves,” Carlisle said. “When you walked in the practice facility, you had to clean your shoes. You had to fill out a form, you had to take your temperature, you had do a lot of things and that was before serial testing began. So a lot has gone into this.”

It’s paying off.

Maybe this should have been expected, even after teams went 4 1/2 months without playing a real game during the suspension. Hostile fans aren’t screaming at and distracting shooters in the bubble. Nobody is weary from a long flight the night before. And the conditions inside the three different game arenas at Disney – from the lighting to the temperature – are relatively close to identical.

“Obviously, even though we are playing on different courts, they all kind of feel like the same arena,” Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez said. “It’s not like we’re going from Milwaukee to Philly, Miami, back to Milwaukee or anything like that. It’s pretty consistent in that regard.”

Only five teams – New Orleans, Toronto, Washington, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Lakers – entered Sunday with a lower average in the bubble than they had before coming to Disney.

“It’s a very weird dynamic,” Lakers star LeBron James said. “I haven’t played in an empty gym in a very, very long time. It’s been a very long time since no one has been watching me play the game. I’m just trying to find that rhythm and lock in.”

Put simply, it is taking a ton of points to win. Entering the bubble, San Antonio had been 58-5 under coach Gregg Popovich when scoring 125 points or more; the Spurs are 0-2 at Disney when scoring that many. And entering Sunday, there had been 54 games completed in the bubble – with the winning team scoring at least 100 points in all 54 of them.

“I think shooting travels,” New Orleans’ J.J. Redick said. “If you can make shots, you can make shots. … I’ve shot in high school gyms. I’ve shot in civic centers. I’ve shot in arenas. I’ve shot in basements of Catholic administrative buildings. If you can make shots, you can make shots.”

Carlisle has another theory or explanation that can’t be argued: Wherever they are, bubble or no bubble, pandemic or no pandemic, NBA players in this era can score from practically anywhere.

“To me, it’s just the level of aggression of the players,” Carlisle said. “And the fact that, you know, the skill sets of NBA players are increasing exponentially by the month. I mean, it’s just getting harder and harder to guard these guys. There’s a high level of enthusiasm. The closeness of the games has been crazy to watch. It’s just been a very special time here – even though it’s been quite unusual.”