RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Here’s a tip of the hat to the NBA’s highest profile “blogger” – Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

The National Basketball Association slapped Cuban with a $200,000 fine this week, half the amount leveled for his daring to exercise his right of free speech. Cuban used a personal blog to criticize the way the league utilizes officials in the playoffs.

Clad in his usual jeans, the man whose image and life certainly matches that of his team’s nickname also walked onto the court after Game 1 Sunday of the playoff series with the San Antonio Spurs trying to get the attention of the officials. That earned the rest of the fine.

“The NBA knows all, does all, and far be it for me to question any of this,” said Cuban in an interview with ESPN reporter Jim Gray.

I hope Cuban keeps speaking out – not just about the NBA but life and business, too. He’s a fun read.

Cuban made his fortune as a “dot com” genius by building (sold to Yahoo! in 1999; he bought the Mavericks in January of 2000) and now is deeply involved in HDTV over the net with HDNet.

When not running his new venture or sitting/standing/cheering/yelling courtside at the Mavericks’ bench, , he sounds off quite often via his blog. And it makes for entertaining reading, although the words are not quite as strong as his comment that he wouldn’t hire the head of NBA officials to manage a Dairy Queen. That drew a $500,000 fine.

For example, his May 10 blog is a passionate defense of “whining”. He whines about officials, about business – about many things. And he’s proud to be a “whiner”.

“Whining is the first step towards change,” he wrote. “Its the moment when you realize something is very wrong and that you have to take the initiative to do something about it. Sure, criticism usually comes along with the territory. Who cares ?

“People in media like to call people whiners. With a negative connotation. Because of course, people in the media are non whiners. Which they amazingly enough , think is a good thing.

“People who dont whine are punching bags. They just go about their days, their jobs, their lives, knowing there is nothing they can do to change a darn thing, so why say a word ? They see no reason to whine because they know they are incapable of affecting change.”

Other recent topics are diverse, to say the least, but very interesting. Just two far-apart yet related examples: He offers some advice for parents concerned about how their children could use and in an earlier blog takes a look at bandwidth to the home.

The blog about NBA officials also makes for interesting reading. He wants better officiating in the playoffs. Who doesn’t? Cuban said he presented his argument to rely on fewer, more experienced referees before posting it to the web, but he was smacked down anyway.

Maybe it was his last comment.

“It makes absolutely no sense to do it the way it is currently done,” he said of the referee scheduling. “If the league wants the best officiating in every game, only use the best officials. Anything less cheats us all.”

When it comes to blogging, it’s fair to say Cuban doesn’t cheat his readers – agree with him or not.