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Mark Cuban says referees have 'chosen not to call' 3-second violations

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Cuban made a rare post-game appearance to complain about the refereeing this season, even though the stats don't back him up.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS -- Making an unprecedented media appearance in the Mavericks' locker room after Dallas' 98-95 loss to the Hawks, owner Mark Cuban said that referees have "chosen not to call defensive 3-second" violations this season, leading to a change in how NBA teams are playing defense.

Cuban, known for his sideline theatrics and often vocally voicing complaints to officials, said he was counting on the sidelines -- "five, six, seven" -- throughout the game to no avail. No defensive 3-second violations were called during the game, despite Cuban saying there were "not just obvious, but blatant" examples.

"Something's happening where, and I don't think it's at the league level, but officials have chosen not to call defensive and, in some cases, offensive 3 second (violations)," Cuban said. "The rule's not a difficult rule. Either you're in there actively guarding or you're not. It's not hard to see if you're getting out in enough time. It's crazy.

This is an issue that has occurred all season, Cuban said. On multiple occasions, the Mavericks have used a system where the NBA allows teams to submit calls they believe were incorrect, sending in possessions where they believed a defensive 3-second violation was missed.

"Not one time, but multiple games where we've turned in seven, eight, nine calls that the league agreed (should have been called) defensive 3 (seconds)," Cuban said.

Cuban explained his appearance in the locker room -- the first time I've ever seen him publicly address media following a game in my four years covering the team -- as him running out of answers as to why this is happening. He also said he wouldn't comment later on if he was fined for speaking out.

"When we're sitting there and we're counting out loud and we've turned in multiple games where there's seven, eight, nine missed seconds, and the league agrees with us, you know, what does that say?" Cuban asked. "I have no idea. I'm asking questions more than I'm saying I know where to find the answers."

This year, 133 defensive 3-second violations have been called in the NBA, per NBAsavant.com, which pulls their data direction from NBA play-by-play data, while 493 were called last year. When you track out the games played so far this year -- about a quarter of the season has passed -- versus an entire season last year, the violations called per game are steady, about 0.4 per game. In fact, by my rough calculations, the NBA is actually calling slightly more defensive 3-second violations this season, from 0.39 to 0.405 per game.

In complete fairness, those statistics only show how many violations are being called, and perhaps the number of defensive 3-second violations missed has increased. Cuban said the NBA recently sent out a league-wide memo calling defensive 3-seconds a "point of emphasis." He stopped short of blaming the Mavericks' three-point loss on the lack of calls, though.

"We were just missing shots," Cuban said. "This is not relevant to the game today. This is a bigger issue, whether it impacts us or impacts someone else, and we're telling guys just to camp out in the paint, so it's not about this game or any other game. This is just one more example. Something happened. Now, fortunately Adam (Silver) is into transparency and you can ask the refs if there's something that has happened, but something's going on and I have no idea what it is."

While Zaza Pachulia acknowledged that the Hawks were perhaps getting a beneficial whistle at times, he told Mavs Moneyball that the Dallas coaches haven't actually told him to camp out in the lane.

"You've got to worry about it. You can't just stand there, you've got be smart," Pachulia said. "It's not Europe. But lately, we just haven't seen too many defensive 3-second (calls)."