Mark Cuban Reveals 1st Big Change in Post-Stern Era: More Transparency on Refs

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Mark Cuban Reveals 1st Big Change in Post-Stern Era: More Transparency on Refs
Jennifer Stewart/USA Today

NEW YORK — The NBA really has changed quite dramatically under Adam Silver. We know this because Mark Cuban is now gushing over decisions made by the commissioner’s office.

It happened Monday night at Madison Square Garden, when Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks’ outspoken owner, was asked a general question about Silver, who took the commissioner’s reins from David Stern on Feb. 1.

“I think he’s taken some great steps on the officiating,” Cuban said. “There’s been more changes in 15 days, or whatever it is, than I saw in 14 years.”

Cuban then divulged the most significant of those changes: The league is now sending its teams regular reports on blown calls by the referees. It’s one of the first steps in Silver’s push for greater transparency. Cuban has been advocating for measures like this since he purchased the Mavericks in 2000.

“So I like what he’s doing there,” Cuban said.

Cuban and Stern famously clashed over officiating matters, with Cuban frequently criticizing league policies and Stern frequently fining Cuban for his public outbursts. Although Cuban has generally praised Stern for his leadership, the two never did agree when it came to the referees.

Silver is taking a different approach, believing that more information and more transparency will ultimately benefit the league. The reports on blown referee calls are not entirely new; they have been compiled and disseminated within the league offices for years. What is new is that these reports are now being distributed to all 30 teams on a regular basis—biweekly, according to one league source.

“Those are things that never would have happened” under Stern, Cuban said. He added, “I’ve been asking for it forever. It’s not all the way there, but it’s starting to happen.”

The NBA had already taken some minor steps in this direction several years ago, when it began issuing public statements to acknowledge when a blown last-second call affected the outcome of a game. The reports being issued to teams are more comprehensive, involving any number of incorrect calls at any time during a game.

That’s important to coaches and players, because it’s not always clear how to interpret calls and non-calls in the course of a game. Cuban cited an example in Sunday’s Houston-Phoenix game, when the RocketsDwight Howard planted himself in the lane—several second too early—on a free-throw attempt.

“And they didn’t call anything,” Cuban said. “So my expectation is that they’ll say something proactively to the teams…so that we know: a) are they going to allow that? Or b) they're not gong to allow it, it should have been called and next time it will be called. And they’ll say something to the officials.

“Because we don’t know, OK, this is the way to do it now, or not the way to do it. In the past, you’d find out the hard way,” Cuban said. “They’ve been more proactive, and I think that’s a huge step in the right direction.”

Cuban said that Stern was open to suggestions and new ideas, as well, noting, “There was only one topic he was close minded.” That would be officiating, of course.

Silver has made transparency his signature philosophy, invoking the word frequently in meetings with league officials, teams and the media. He appears to be making good on that pledge, quickly and eagerly, with one small exception.

Asked to elaborate on the new officiating reports, a league spokesman declined comment.

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