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Ref-Bashers Are Just Whistling in the Dark

GO MAVERICKS!

From the desk of Mark Cuban

Owner, Dallas Mavericks

To Stu Jackson

VP, Basketball Operations

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National Basketball Assn.

New York, N.Y.

Dear Stu,

As the Game 1 video, which I’ve overnighted to your home, office, gym and neighborhood Starbucks (and which is also on my blog), shows clearly, Boris Diaw walked at the end of Game 1.

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Please add the following names to the list of officials we don’t want to see the rest of the postseason: Forte, Joseph; Fryer, Bernard; Willard, Gregory.

We take special exception to Forte, who had to be blind or on the take to call Devin Harris for hooking Steve Nash, who’s a notorious flopper as well as a little ingrate.

On the other hand, we’d like to commend the work of Joey Crawford, Jimmy Clark and Joe DeRosa, who worked our Game 2 victory.

As usual, thanks for your prompt attention to these matters,

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Mark

*

I don’t care how many millions they pay Jackson, I don’t want his problems. He not only hears from the Mavericks but all the other teams, too.

Even in this postseason, the best since the Bulls’ heyday, there’s no question the system is messed up. Both teams work the referees on every possession, trying to draw contact or fake it by flopping. The referees go back to their hotel, go over the video of the game on their laptops, review all calls and file a report so Jackson has an answer when the losing general manager calls.

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Just by engaging in a dialogue, the league is playing along with the teams, which think they’re cheated regularly, at the expense of its own referees.

Everyone pines for legendary referees like Mendy Rudolph. Of course, back then opposing coaches swore the real obstacle to winning in Boston Garden wasn’t some leprechaun but Mendy.

The great referees dispensed frontier justice like Judge Roy Bean. Joe Gushue once ejected the New York Daily News’ Dick Young from the press table. Earl Strom confronted hecklers, once choked partner Dick Bavetta and claimed Wilt Chamberlain saved his career by grabbing him before he could punch a St. Louis Hawks official.

Now referees aren’t allowed to have personalities, to the point of barring them from talking to the press. It’s all corporate ... except for Cuban, who has paid more than $1 million in fines and made matching donations to charity to show how much it bothered him.

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There’s more to Cuban than his enfant terrible act, breathing life into his franchise. Despite an ego struggle with coach Don Nelson, they kept it together for five seasons until Nellie walked away, when Cuban turned to Avery Johnson, whom Nelson had nominated as his successor.

Cuban’s willingness to answer e-mails makes him the people’s owner of all time. On the other hand, he’s a little too down-to-earth, acting like a yahoo on talk radio.

His team, he claims, either wins or has it stolen by referees, supervised by the bumbling league office while the national press, which hates Cuban, the Mavericks and Dallas, makes up lies.

Cuban’s May 23 blog, the day after his team eliminated the Spurs, was standard conspiracy theory, noting TNT’s website had put up a montage of players from Detroit, Miami and Phoenix, with San Antonio’s Tim Duncan where Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki should have been.

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“I guess we didn’t get the memo,” wrote Cuban. “Unbelievable? Not to the Mavs family. We don’t care what the national media thinks. We don’t care what the NBA thinks. We believe!”

Actually, if it wasn’t for Cuban, no one would have anything against the Mavericks, who are low-key guys and indisputably an elite team. Nor is Dallas some burg pining to be major league. The Cowboys once billed themselves as America’s Team and had the national TV ratings to back it up.

With Cuban around, America’s Team may now be Whoever’s Playing the Mavericks.

As great as the Mavericks-Spurs series was, Cuban, not Nowitzki, may have been the MVP for going onto the floor in Game 1. (Ka-ching! This is the league, that’ll be $200,000. Do you want to use the credit card on your account?)

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Coaches think drawing a technical foul buys a call or two, but 200K buys more than that.

The Mavericks won Game 3 because of a 50-32 edge in free-throw attempts, with Duncan fouling out when Nowitzki came down on his foot. They won Game 4 when the officials put Nowitzki on the line at the end after a little bump by Bruce Bowen. In Game 7, the officials let Nowitzki get away with going over Duncan’s shoulder and hacking him to prevent the winning layup.

There are always questionable calls both ways and the Mavericks proved themselves as worthy as the Spurs. Nevertheless, with Cuban’s exuberance and Johnson’s determination to toughen his team up, Big D now stands for Dizzy.

Dallas fans booed the Spurs’ Michael Finley, the fourth-leading scorer in Mavericks history, who left only after being dumped for luxury tax relief.

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If that wasn’t bad enough on the yahoo scale, several media outlets encouraged fans to boo Nash, whose departure to Phoenix had been lamented locally while he was twice most valuable player for the Suns.

Even Cuban, who suggested Finley was a “crybaby,” thought that was a bit much and, as Jerry Stackhouse noted, it might be good to “let sleeping dogs lie.”

Bingo!

Nash scored 10 of his 27 points in the last 3:26 of Game 1 as the Suns came from nine down to steal it. With Raja Bell reportedly out until Game 5, they remain underdogs but as we in the national media like to say, it ain’t over till it’s over.

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Faces and Figures

Something else that would take some pressure off referees: A no foul-out rule. It’s hard to believe we’re still talking about it because it’s been discussed at all levels of the game for decades and I’ve never heard a good argument against it.... Meanwhile in the East: The Detroit and Miami media are busy insulting each other’s teams, calling Shaquille O’Neal “old and fat” and the Pistons “smug.” Indeed, the every-other-day schedule will be hard for O’Neal, especially with three-hour flights after Games 4, 5 and 6, and Pistons officials say privately their players haven’t looked as hungry since four became All-Stars.... The East finals also feature, or are embarrassed by, Detroit’s Flip Saunders hacking Shaq and Miami’s Pat Riley hacking Ben Wallace, highlighting the need to take all intentional fouling out of the game. Any foul that isn’t a play on the ball should be penalized by awarding two free throws and the ball....

Lottery scenario, first of many: 1. Toronto doesn’t want to re-sign mouthy free agent Mike James and trades down for Portland’s No. 4 pick plus Steve Blake or Jarrett Jack. Portland, which wants to dump Theo Ratliff’s salary and isn’t sure it can re-sign Joel Przybilla, takes LaMarcus Aldridge. 2. Chicago, happy to take Aldridge or Tyrus Thomas, takes Thomas. 3. Charlotte takes Adam Morrison. 4. Toronto takes seven-footer Andrea Bargnani, a crack three-point shooter, as GM Bryan Colangelo gets set to spread the floor as he did in Phoenix. 5. Atlanta needs a point guard but takes Brandon Roy, who’s too good to pass up. 6. Minnesota needs someone who can help now with Kevin Garnett antsy, takes Randy Foye. 7. Boston takes Marcus Williams. 8. Houston does a sign-and-trade for James (let’s say Luther Head and Clarence Weatherspoon’s expiring contract) and drafts another crack shooter, J.J. Redick. 9. Golden State takes seven-footer Patrick O’Bryant, whose stock is rising. 10. Seattle, going young and athletic, takes Rudy Gay....

Even in the Knicks’ theater of the absurd, it was a memorable week. Team officials called police, who threatened to arrest media people waiting for Coach Larry Brown in the practice facility parking lot. The media retreated across the road to a grassy strip next to a ditch as traffic whizzed by, including Brown, who waved from his SUV but didn’t stop.... Knicks officials maintained their silence on reports they’ll buy out Brown and corporate boss James Dolan put off his request for a meeting, letting Brown twist in the wind. However, with Dolan’s rock band, JD and the Straight Shot, scheduled to play at a Manhattan club this week, the New York Daily News’ Frank Isola wrote, “Can’t you just see Brown holding a beer in one hand ... rocking his head to the music?” ... Just in case, 100 or so media people will be there, holding beers and rocking, too.

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