Mark Cuban, the flamboyant and tech savvy owner of the Dallas Mavericks is known for flaunting the NBA's rules and paying fines as a result. It would come as no surprise then if Cuban used a supposedly unaffiliated and independent blogger to stir up trouble and skirt the league's ban on tampering.
In early April when the Suns were in Dallas for their final epic and failed attempt to keep playoff hopes alive in Phoenix, a rumor surfaced that Shaquille O'Neal wanted to be traded to the Mavericks.
The rumor was first floated on a web site called Dallasbasketball.com by the site's primary author Mike Fisher.
We have since learned that Mike has a long standing relationship with Cuban and his web site is owned by Dallas Basketball LTD, the limited partnership which owns the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks Director of Technology & Information Systems, Ken Bonzon is listed as the administrative contact for the web site.
The association between the team and the original publication of a thinly sourced rumor raises questions that tie into something a sports agent told me regarding Cuban's use of "non-traditional media" to stir up trouble with other teams and to insert himself into discussions that would otherwise be forbidden under the tampering ban.
According to the NBA Salary Cap FAQ, "tampering is when a player or team directly or indirectly entices, induces or persuades anybody (player, general manager, etc.) who is under contract with another team to negotiate for their services. The NBA takes tampering very seriously and may impose stiff penalties if it is discovered.."
I asked Fisher via email to clarify his association with the Mavericks and the ownership of this web site.
Fisher responded by confirming that he's known Cuban for many years but that he's not been "used" in any way different then any other media outlet. His only response regarding the administration of his web site was that he "pays for it" and that he is self-employed.
Certainly, Mike is right that team owners and GM's regularly use the media to advance their own agenda. Typically, though a rumor such as the one floated about Shaq would be sourced at least to a "unnamed source with the Mavericks" instead of to "friends of Shaq".
I emailed Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks for additional clarification regarding his relationship to Fisher and the web site. Cuban responded via email saying this:
"ken administers quite a few sites for myself and friends and has for more than 9 years. DallasBasketball is a site i got involved with 9 years ago before the NBA was active on the net and over which I have zero editorial involvement. Fish writes what he wants to write and talks to who he wants to talk to.. Just as its been for 9 years."
Cuban went on to say
"it was disclosed and discussed years ago. Its not like the Whois hasnt been brought up many times before. That information is about as public as you can get.
As far as what he prints and why, thats up to him. Im not involved at all. Not even a little tiny bit. You have to discuss that with him.
Its hard to tamper when you dont have any idea whats being written, wouldnt you say ?"
To clarify the uncertainly in that response, I asked Cuban directly if he denied being the source of the rumor or having any knowledge of the source of the rumor. His response to me was....enlightening
"What part of "not involved with him" didnt make sense ? Im all for you playing a Jr Dan Rather, but come on. Why would I even care what Shaq or anyone says. It has no impact on what happens in the real world.
Time to step away from the blog and get a real job."
Not to split hairs, but I did spend four years as a federal law enforcement agent (Army CID) and helped prosecute criminal cases back in the day so I can't help but notice that Cuban technically never did deny being the source of the rumor. Like he said though, it's not as if what he or Shaq says has any impact in the real world. Unless of course he violated league rules. Again.
I will now return to my day job as assistant to the managing janitor in my mother's basement.