His predecessor David Stern publicly butted heads with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, but new NBA commissioner Adam Silver says Cuban is good for the league.
"There has been some public stuff around the edges between Mark and the league," Silver said, "but Mark's input has been hugely beneficial to the league in so many areas the public will never hear about."
In his 14 seasons as owner, Cuban was famously fined $2 million by Stern, mostly for his criticism of referees.
After his last fine, two weeks before Stern's recent retirement, Cuban wrote on his Twitter feed: "I couldn't let the commissioner go without a proper farewell. It's been a fun 14 years of trying to create change and donating to the doughnut fund!"Silver said Cuban, who is a part owner of AXS TV and made his fortune by selling his Broadcast.com Internet radio company to Yahoo, made strong suggestions on how the league should deal with its digital assets as well as helped the league with its marketing initiatives.
"Mark epitomizes the new generation of owner who is all-in to his franchise and is involved in every aspect of the team," Silver said. "It's not necessary that that be the model for others, but we welcome it. While you won't hear this from many owners directly, Mark has attracted many of the new generation owners to the league."
When told of Silver's comments, Cuban replied by email: "I like Adam :)"
Silver said Cuban was one of the first true owner/fans who was 100 percent invested in his team. Due to Cuban, opposing fans now match up their owners' passion against the renegade billionaire's.
"I think now there's a recognition by the owners that fans are counting on them to be even more passionate than they are," Silver said. "Fans want to know that their owner is losing sleep over the fortune of the team and the owners understand that it's a social contract of sorts."
Silver recently formed a seven-owner committee, which doesn't happen to include Cuban, to work with the league on its new media deal. The current eight-year, $7.5 billion deal with ESPN and Turner expires at the end of the 2015-16 season. The committee consists of Clay Bennett ( Oklahoma City Thunder), James Dolan ( New York Knicks), Ted Leonsis ( Washington Wizards), Wyc Grousbeck ( Boston Celtics), Peter Holt ( San Antonio Spurs), Greg Miller ( Utah Jazz) and Michael Reinsdorf ( Chicago Bulls).
The move shows the league's willingness to get owners more involved, which Silver says is a no-brainer.
"In an increasingly complex world, we have these fantastic sets of resources available to us through our owners," Silver said. "We have businessmen and businesswomen who run companies not just in America but around the world, great entrepreneurs, people who do business globally, people who are running media companies."
While the league's exclusive negotiating window with its current TV partners doesn't open for another year, Silver hasn't been shy about getting things started sooner rather than later, especially given the complexities of the digital environment.
"Our goal is to do the best possible deal for the league and its fans and money is of course one component, but there's also the breadth of the distribution, how we handle new technologies, the ease in which fans can receive games," Silver said. "It frustrates me sometimes that our broadband package isn't all-you-can-eat, one price for one package."
Trips last week to Facebook and Twitter got Silver excited for the league's future.
"If someone tweets 'Barn Burner. Knicks-OKC game. 2 minutes to go,' you should see that and then the game comes up live," Silver said. "We are going to charge for our premium content, but right now it's very cumbersome. It's not consumer friendly. I think ultimately we know the demand is out there for those products and it's a complicated ecostructure of rights holders, but it's something that we should be able to figure out."