And in the role of loyal soldier...is Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who has come to the defense of the NBA in the midst of the referee scandal.

Yes, that Mark Cuban. The guy who has racked up more than $1 million in fines over the years for criticizing officials has become one of the first owners to speak up publicly in support of commissioner David Stern and his leadership in the midst of the NBA's biggest crisis -- an allegation that referee Tim Donaghy placed bets on games, including some that he worked over the last two years.

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Cynics among us may wonder if the show of solidarity is perfectly timed to present his good side at a time when Cuban is trying to display his best face as he throws his hat in the ring to buy the Chicago Cubs to counter the perception that he is, well, a maverick. But things have gotten so bad for Stern that he might actually welcome Cuban's kind wishes.

On a more serious note, Stern is expected to make his first extended public comments about the Donaghy crisis some time this week, perhaps as soon as today. Meanwhile, Donaghy's troubles appear to be deepening, with word that Florida police were called to his home this weekend to protect him from alleged threatening phone calls. This is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

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