John Canzano of The Oregonian recently published a series of articles on refereeing in the NBA. There were juicy tidbits like the time Tim Donaghy punched Joey Crawford, but there were also serious allegations, like how Mark Cuban might have consulted an FBI agent about the 2006 NBA Finals.
In 2006, Cuban’s Mavericks faced the Miami Heat in the Finals. Dallas took a 2-0 lead into Game 3, and were leading by 13 points in the fourth quarter, before the Heat rallied to win the game and tie the series in Game 4. Game 5 was the most controversial from a refereeing standpoint. Dwyane Wade shot 25 free throws, including getting this phantom foul call with 1.9 seconds left in the game leading to his game-winning free throws:
The Heat ended up winning four straight to come back and win the title. Cuban was furious at the refs at the end of Game 5, and confronted official Joe DeRosa on the court. He was fined by the league for his actions and comments. In one of Canzano’s articles, he mentioned a possible exchange between Cuban and FBI agent Warren Flagg:
Retired FBI agent Warren Flagg, a 20-year veteran of the bureau, said he consulted with Cuban after that playoff debacle. Flagg now runs his own New York-based investigation and security firm. He looked deep into officiating, as Flagg said, Cuban was considering a lawsuit.
“Cuban asked me what he should do,” Flagg said of the 2006 Finals. “I told him, ‘Sue and you’ll win your case,’ but he knew he’d be killing the Golden Goose.”
When asked about his discussions with Flagg, Cuban said: “I don’t remember.”
Yesterday, Cuban took to Twitter to clarify the situation:
To set the record straight. I have never hired or consulted with any former FBI agents to investigate our 2006 Finals.
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) May 20, 2014
In a follow-up piece, Canzano also revealed a radio show conversation he had with Cuban, in which he did admit to having a conversation with Flagg, although not after the 2006 Finals:
Cuban called in to my radio show (Line 2) and said he, too, wanted to clear up the context of any possible conversation he had with Flagg, “I don’t recall calling the guy. But when the whole (Tim) Donaghy thing was going on I talked to a lot of people so I don’t think it’s inconceivable that I could have talked to him.”
The Mavericks owner said of the 2006 NBA Finals (Dallas-Miami) officiating, “There’s a reason why I got fined. It was horrible. It was beyond horrible.”
Cuban said he wanted to make it clear that he did not call Flagg immediately after the 2006 Finals. He believes the context was that their conversation, if it happened, may have been as late as 2008. “He may have made a throwaway line about the 2006 Finals,” Cuban said.
Aside from being a passionate owner, Cuban has always been critical of the officiating in the league, but he’s also always looking to see how he can work with the league to improve it. So it’s not surprising he would consult folks outside of the league for their opinion.
The league has made strides in making the overall refereeing process better and more transparent. Next year, they’ll be moving to a centralized replay system.
But questionable refereeing like what happened during the 2006 Finals is still fresh on everyone’s mind, and it’ll take a while longer before we can trust the officiating in the league to be consistent over a long period of time.
What do you think?
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