Here is Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s full response to The Vertical’s story on the National Basketball Referees Association that includes union assertions that he has worked to intimidate refs to gain a competitive advantage and has an undue influence with the league office on referee issues.
“To suggest I have influence is to suggest that the NBA officials can be influenced,” Cuban told The Vertical in an email. “If an official can be influenced by pressure from anyone they should not be in the NBA. I don’t believe they can be influenced. As far as my influence on employment, several years ago I sent a list to the NBA of officials who had been NBA officials for more than a decade and never made the playoffs.
“I asked why we weren’t bringing in better officials than those who weren’t able to crack the top half of officials. [I think it’s 37 who get selected as playoff refs]. I also asked if being an NBA official was a lifetime job and at what point do we recognize that there is someone else out there who can do a better job? I did this knowing that any terminated refs could receive substantial pensions. As far as anything else, I’ve been the same way since I bought the team and have no reason to change.
“And let me add, with just a few exceptions over the years, 99.99 percent of my issues have been with how the officials have been managed. The turnover at the top and the use of former officials as senior management with the expectation that they can manage their peers without having any outside management experience was and is a red flag to me. It leads to politics impacting evaluation and performance of the officials, and unfortunately, how the games are called.
“One easy way to see this in practice is to look at the evolution of certain rules. Look at verticality. Verticality used to be just that. You had to go straight up and down, and your hands had to stay straight up. I can’t tell you how many times years ago I would ask how [former Mavs center] Erick Dampier was expected to keep his hands straight up when absorbing contact to his chest. I was told that verticality is verticality.
“In the last couple years, as players have used it more often, the rule book hasn’t changed, but how it’s enforced has changed dramatically. You no longer have to go straight up and down. There is a list of exceptions that are now explained in the case book.
“And this is a good time to mention the last-two-minute report. It’s essential. Prior to the report there were a material number of fans who thought the NBA was fixed. The report ended that craziness.
“Just as importantly, for me, it’s a chance to get insights into how officials are being evaluated and managed and its impact on the game.
“I will give you an example: A couple weeks ago there was a Knicks-Bucks game where Giannis [Antetokounmpo] hit a buzzer beater. In the last-two-minute report, it said that a five-second count should have been called BUT, there was a qualifier that said it required a stopwatch to accurately be counted. The same report said a [defensive three seconds] should have been called, but again, a qualifier was added that it was immaterial.
“I didn’t see the actual report. I read about it in a New York Times article about the game. To me it was the most embarrassing article written about officiating and rules enforcement since Ed Rush was interviewed saying the game wasn’t called the same in the last minute as the first [minute].
“Why was it embarrassing? Because it said that we aren’t able to make a five-second call without a stopwatch. Which begs the question of why do we have the rule if some of our officials aren’t able to call it?
“And the idea that a D3 was immaterial? Where the hell did that come from? Who made that decision? Who decided that there were circumstances where a D3 should not be called? The reality is if you called a D3 with 4.8 seconds left in that game, how the rest of the game plays out could have been totally different.
“These are the reasons I get angry about officiating.
“If there is an uncalled D3 at a critical point of a game, how do we know if it wasn’t called because it was immaterial? If a guy is backing in for the game-winning shot, how do we know if the ref just ignored attempting to call it because there was too much going on and it was too hard to accurately count the five seconds?
“When I have these type of questions in-game, that’s when you see me get mad.
“And it’s exactly why I’m not going to stop being aggressive about trying to force change in the officiating group. It’s not about the officials. It’s about the situations they are put [in] by their management that make their jobs far more difficult. Managing NBA officials requires the ability to manage. Just because you were an NBA crew chief doesn’t make you a good manager of officials any more than being a good salesperson makes you a good sales manager. Until we have top-notch managers managing officials, improvement will be difficult.
“Hopefully, with Byron [Spruell] at the top, things will change. But he has a tall task ahead of him.”
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