If you haven't read about the latest shots fired in the war between the NBA and its officials, you need to go here to check it out. Already irked about the league's "last two minute reports," referees are up in arms about all the harassment they're taking from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. A letter from the officials' association's counsel details several examples of Cuban's mistreatment of officials and the impact it may be having:
In a recent letter to Byron Spruell, the NBA’s president of league operations, NBRA general counsel Lee Seham outlined what the union considers to be a lengthy pattern of documented violations by Cuban of the NBA constitution and “undue influence of the league’s management of its officials.”
“We consider the threat to the integrity of NBA basketball presented by Mr. Cuban’s misconduct to be real and growing,” Seham wrote on Dec. 9.
Cuban's public harassment of officials has been documented in the past and anyone who has watched Dallas games frequently has seen examples. He is not shy about showing them up -- conduct league owners are not supposed to engage in. The problem is, like a lot of NBA owners, the league cannot influence Cuban's behavior with fines. He is too rich. He mocks them. I believe at some point the NBA is going to have to start barring him from arenas or from the vicinity of the court if it wants to deter him.
At the same time, if the league's officials are being intimidated by his antics, they need to take inventory. His behavior should not impact them any more than fan reaction to their calls. In fact, I would assume his antics would push the average official into making more calls against Cuban's team. In the old days of rogue officials, that stuff happened all the time in the NBA with players. Referees held grudges and never hesitated to show it.
I don't want that day to ever return. But I also believe that in order to recruit and maintain the best officials in the world -- which the NBA has -- they must be treated properly by everyone associated with the league. If fines don't stop poor behavior, suspensions must be next.