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Thursday, December 13
 
Cuban spending money on referee trend research

Associated Press

DALLAS -- Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has never backed down from criticizing NBA officials.

Now he's spending money -- something else he's not shy about doing -- to evaluate referees' performances. Cuban has hired what he calls a "statistics expert" to track referees during every Mavericks game.

"I can't tell you how I do it," Cuban said. "I got someone I trust, and I pay him a lot of money."

Cuban believes the evaluation of every official in every Mavericks game will reveal tendencies that can be used to his team's advantage.

"That could impact how the game is played and officiated," he said.

That same data could also provide justification for some of Cuban's criticism.

Cuban was fined seven times for a total of $505,000 by the NBA last season. The biggest of the fines was $250,000 for criticizing referees, after three other fines for similar incidents.

He also was fined for making a derogatory gesture, running onto the court to break up a fight and for sitting on the baseline during another game.

Although Cuban insists that he uses the statistics solely to the advantage of the Mavs, the facts he has discovered have left the billionaire owner frustrated.

"The league is calling fewer fouls. The players and coaches know it, so they are more aggressive," he said. "My guess is that someone is going to get hurt as a result. If we just enforced the rules as they are ... we would have a much better game."

Ed Rush, the NBA's director of officials, declined to comment on Cuban's actions or his stats.

Among the initial findings, according to Cuban, are that there has been almost a nine percent drop in the number of fouls called even though teams are averaging more shots and more possessions per game. His statistics also show that younger officials are less likely to blow the whistle.

"If by chance the young ref is under your basket, you probably are going to get fewer fouls, and you think you have been taken advantage of," said Cuban, who bought the Mavericks for $280 million in January 2000.

How would he rate how his evaluation process is working so far?

"Great. Facts don't lie. Anything that can help a little bit is a good thing," he said.

Cuban hasn't been fined for criticizing officials this season, but he was very upset after a Dec. 2 win at Sacramento.

With two-tenths of a second left in regulation, Dirk Nowitzki was called for a foul on a late whistle by referee Dee Kanter. Peja Stojakovic missed a chance to win the game for the Kings, making just one of two free throws. The Mavericks won 120-114 in overtime.

"Refs miss calls," Cuban said. "It's not one call that was the issue. It's when there are inconsistencies throughout the game that creates problems.

"A foul is a foul. A travel is a travel. If you see it, call it."

In the second quarter of that game, Dallas coach Don Nelson stormed onto the court to argue with Kanter about a no-call on Nowitzki's drive to the basket. Nelson picked up two quick technicals and was ejected from the game.