Cuban continues to drive Mavericks

DALLAS – The Dallas Mavericks were three hours from facing the Miami Heat, and Mark Cuban was already on the court, dressed in the team’s practice gear and launching 3-pointer after 3-pointer.

Not until Heat assistant coach Bob McAdoo began ribbing him about the workout did Cuban put the ball down and break into a smile. It’s safe to say that in the nearly 11 years since Cuban bought the Mavericks no NBA owner has had more fun – or been as interesting.

“It’s like a dream come true,” Cuban said. “I get to come out here and knock down threes and talk crap with Bob McAdoo. How can that not be fun?”

Cuban recently sat down with Yahoo! Sports to discuss a wide range of topics about his eventful tenure as the Mavericks’ owner.

Q: What’s the difference between being an owner now and when you first arrived on Jan. 4, 2000?

Cuban: “It’s a little different obviously because it’s not quite as new. And some of the things you tried to change have changed. There are some things you’ve learned just to not beat your head against the wall over. It’s different. Just the business side has changed simply because of the economy. It’s a whole lot more work simply to sell tickets.”

Q: Anything you’d do differently?

Cuban: “I’d do it again the exact same way in a heartbeat. It was fun. It was just like anything else. The newness is always new.”

Q: What do you think of your critics?

Cuban: “I don’t care. I didn’t care then. Don’t care now. It doesn’t matter.”

Q: What kind of influence do you think you’ve had on the NBA?

Cuban: “When I got in, everyone was like, ‘Shut the hell up, go up to the box, write the check and don’t say a word.’ Now, every time a team loses a game someone wants me to buy their team. Now when new owners come in, they want them to be like Mark Cuban. That’s a compliment, that’s interesting, that’s fun and everything.

“I’ve changed rules. I paid attention to the rules, I paid attention to the game and the math of the game. Things like clear-path [fouls] and showing the NBA the math didn’t work when it was one shot and the ball. It gave the defense advantage. We got that rule changed. I think I have had an impact on how the game is played. Not all teams, but a lot of teams recognize that we’re in the entertainment business, not in the basketball business. Now we go to arenas and they try to do what we do here. They try to copy us more than any other team. That’s a compliment. But it also makes us work harder to raise the bar. I want to stay ahead of everybody, too.”

Q: Looking back, did you say or do anything you wish you could take back?

Cuban: “There is probably something right at the beginning. I gave the choke sign to a ref one time and I got fined for it. I probably shouldn’t have done that. But it was all part of the process. No one paid attention to the officiating until I came in. I brought a whole lot of attention to it, and it changed hopefully for the better.”

Q: You have been known to take losses extremely hard. How do you deal with them now?

Cuban: “It’s easier because I have kids. It used to bother me for a day, two days. Now I’ve been through it enough. I kind of go home and hug the kids. It still takes a long time to go to sleep after we lose a game though.”

Q: What do you think of all the money you’ve lost on fines as an NBA owner?

Cuban: “Worth every penny if you brought attention to things that needed attention brought to them. It got the league used to me. It got to the point where they recognized I got more than my money’s worth. They can fine me $50,000, $100,000 and all I can do is spin it to my advantage. And they know that. But I haven’t been fined much [lately] other than the LeBron [James] thing this summer, which was an accident and I turned myself in. I haven’t been fined for anything significant in years.”

Q: So are you quieter now?

Cuban: “No. They’ve made changes. Before, they wouldn’t do anything. Now they do stuff. If they do what you ask them to do, you can’t complain about it, right? Now they’re responding to me. They listen.”

Q: When did you realize your voice was being heard?

Cuban: “Probably only like two, 2½ years ago.”

Q: How would you describe your relationship with NBA commissioner David Stern?

Cuban: “I get along good with David. I always did. We just took a different approach to some things, and he had the hammer. But I had the pen. I think he always has [respected me]. It wasn’t like I was railing about an issue that wasn’t on people’s minds. It wasn’t like I was complaining about the price of cheeseburgers in China.”

Q: Early in your days as Mavericks owner, the late Detroit Pistons owner, Bill Davidson, scolded you in an owner’s meeting for being too vocal. What do you remember about that?

Cuban: “He said, ‘You haven’t done [expletive] in this league. Shut up until you’ve done something in this league.’ And everyone told him that’s not right. I didn’t care. I walked into the very first board of governors meeting thinking, ‘It’s going to be great. There are 28 other owners and they are all smart, successful business people. It’s going to be a blast.’ Most of the owners didn’t even show up and most of the ones that were there didn’t say a word. And I was like, ‘What the [expletive]?’ I asked David [Stern] and he said, ‘If you got something to say, say it.’ Not everybody liked it. But I kept on saying it.”

Q: Did you and Davidson ever talk about his criticism?

Cuban: “No, because I didn’t care. I liked Bill and he actually was really, really nice to me. It wasn’t like we had any problems. He just didn’t like the fact that I was speaking up in the meetings. You know what? If I pay $285 million for an investment, I’m going to speak up.”

Q: What are your thoughts on the expected lockout?

Cuban: “I’m looking at the long-term, and that’s all I can tell you. I can’t even guess. All I can tell you is I take the long-term look.”

Q: Surely, the hardest thing to deal with during your tenure was losing to the Miami Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals. Do you still think about that much?

Cuban: “I try not to. It gives me a stomach ache. But I paid my fines on that and there is no reason to talk about it, and I haven’t changed my mind on anything.”

Q: Did you try to recruit LeBron James(notes), Dwyane Wade(notes) and Chris Bosh(notes) during free agency, even though you were limited to doing a sign-and-trade deal?

Cuban: “I was texting back and forth with some of them. But they had their plan in mind and we couldn’t deliver on their plan. Kind of the message I was giving was no team has sort of blown themselves up and won a championship rebuilding through free agency.”

Q: Were you disappointed you weren’t able to land a meeting with any of them?

Cuban:: “They kind of had their plan and I knew it. If you can’t deliver on the plan, it is what it is.”

Q: Dirk Nowitzki(notes) just signed a new four-year contract, but have you begun to wonder about life without him and what you’ll need to do to eventually replace him?

Cuban: “We got a few years. He’s had a phenomenal season. He’s a beast. He’s made me look really, really smart a whole lot of times. I appreciate it and don’t take it for granted. You can’t really plan on what you do afterward, but you obviously have that in your mind when you look at all the alternatives and options that are available to us.”

Q: What do you consider your biggest successes and regrets with Mavericks?

Cuban: “I’m not going to nail on any individual players. We’ve made mistakes, but I learned early on – but not early enough I guess – that not everybody has winning a championship in their heart. People have different motivation in what they do. That’s where I got more involved in what I do in adjusting personnel in terms of player evaluations. It cost me money making some of those adjustments and trusting people. But you learn. That’s part of the process. There is no template for winning a championship. You just got to continue to try to learn and get better and smarter. That’s what I try to do.”

Q: You happy with your team right now?

Cuban: “You always want to do better. You always want to be opportunistic. But I’m good with the team that we have. Just look at the last few games and we can see what we can do.”

Q: What would the NBA be like if you never came along?

Cuban: “It would be fine. It’s just better now.”

Hornets on move?

New Orleans Hornets minority partner Gary Chouest has attended every home game this season, but it’s far from a done deal that he will eventually become the franchise’s majority owner, league sources said.

Even still, Chouest remains the most serious bidder for the Hornets, who could have an opportunity to move.

The New Orleans’ Times-Picayune reported that the Hornets can opt out of their current lease with the state of Louisiana if they fail to average 14,213 fans over a 13-date stretch that began on Dec. 1 and ends Jan. 17. Through their first nine home games, the Hornets have averaged 13,826, ranking 27th among the NBA’s 30 teams.

Chouest is a Louisiana native with political and business ties to the state, so it would be a surprise for him to move the franchise if he’s able to purchase it from current owner George Shinn. If a deal with Chouset isn’t completed, league sources said Oracle CEO Larry Ellison remains intrigued about buying an NBA franchise after losing out on the Golden State Warriors. It’s possible Ellison could seek to move an existing franchise to San Jose, Calif., which has an 18,500-seat arena.

If the Maloof family ever decides to sell the Sacramento Kings, Ellison could also emerge as a suitor for them.

Spurs not complacent

Maybe San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili(notes) could sense what was coming after the team beat the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday to improve to an NBA- and franchise-best 15-2.

“We just got to stay humble because when we start thinking about being the No. 1 team in the league it’s going to go downhill,” Ginobili said. “We just got to stay humble going game by game.”

One night later, the Spurs lost to the Los Angeles Clippers, who owned the NBA’s worst record.

“Starting well doesn’t mean you’re going to finish well or do well in the middle,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “If we stay healthy, it’s a matter of staying focused and not thinking that you’re that good. We’re as good as about six or seven other teams in the West. Not better than, just as good as six or seven teams, and the Lakers are above that.”