Jason Kidd and Mark Cuban talk turkey back in 2011 (Getty Images)
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has treated Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov with a healthy sense of tact in the years since Mikhail just about swiped Cuban’s starring role as “The Owner Who Will Spend Anything to Win.” While it’s true that Cuban has spent quite a bit in nearly 12 years of Mavericks ownership in the pursuit of championship rings, he hasn’t gone completely batty with his payroll against his better instincts – witness his passing on re-signing Steve Nash as a free agent in 2004, a move that eventually backfired, but the sound basketball decision at the time.
Relative to the big moves made by the Nets, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Houston Rockets, the Mavericks have kind of whiffed on the last three offseasons; tinkering around the edges while attempting to stay competitive and financially flexible at the same time. While they went out in the first round in 2012, followed by Dirk Nowitzki’s injury getting in the way of a playoff berth last season, this year’s roster is on pace for another 50-win campaign. If Dirk takes a pay cut this summer, the Mavericks could have around $30 million in cap space to tinker with. This is a good pairing.
The Nets? Not only are they on pace for just 23 wins, with a player and coaching payroll that (including luxury taxes) will approach $200 million this season. All while Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko and Paul Pierce struggle with injuries, and Kevin Garnett works through the most trying and ineffective season of his career. Future draft picks won’t help the cause, either, as the Nets sent a batch of first rounders (and rights to swap preferable first rounders) to Boston for the ability to land Mssrs. Garnett and Pierce.
The differences between the franchises are striking, in spite of the bankrolls behind them. Cuban talked about as much with Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Wednesday:
"It's not just you're stuck for a week or you're stuck for half a season, you're stuck,'' Cuban said. "Now the rules have gotten worst you're even more stuck.”
Now, it’s important to note that it was Price that was referencing the Nets here, and not Cuban. Mark never said anything along the lines of “the Nets are stuck,” even if they’re totally, totally stuck.
With that in place, Cuban did offer an accurate shot of sorts when talking about the massive contracts that Garnett, Pierce, and former Maverick Jason Terry are now working with in Brooklyn, telling ESPN Dallas that "There was a reason [Boston was] trying to get rid of them," which is true. The Celtics didn't exactly think those players were millstones at that price, but they did see an opportunity to secure a win-win deal for two different franchises in completely different places.
(Even if it's the Celtics, and not the Nets, that are leading the Atlantic Division right now while rebuilding. Yikes.)
Cuban went on to discuss the players he was criticized for letting go in the wake of the Mavericks’ 2011 championship:
"If you look across the board a lot of guys would have been our guys and they've been hurt a lot. One's a coach now (in Kidd) and two of our key players (Chandler and Terry) would have been hurt. You never know, but that was definitely a fear.''
This also needs a little clarification, because Cuban (infamously) wanted to keep Kidd as his point guard in the summer of 2012. Their grudge has now passed, but make no mistake – Cuban wanted Kidd around, even if it was at a reduced price and/or commitment in terms of contract length.
And Chandler? Injury-prone both this year and late last season in New York, but also the deserved Defensive Player of the Year in his first year away from Dallas.
Cuban has had his fun with Kidd recently, most notably in revealing the inspiration behind Kidd’s spilled cup of pop from last week, and that cheery tone extended to the point where Price asked Cuban to comment on Mikhail Prokhorov directly:
"He's fun, he's a great guy, he's funny as (expletive delete),'' Cuban said. "But I haven't really hung out with him.
"I haven’t done any vodka. I've been invited to, I just haven’t had a chance to get to Moscow and do it.''
Doesn’t really sound like a whole lot of beef, does it? Just sounds like a smart basketball executive discussing his options, shooting to return to that Finals stage.
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