Mark Cuban thinks 'villain' Warriors will be good for NBA business

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Owner Mark Cuban applauds before Game 3 of the 2016 Western Conference Quarterfinals. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Owner Mark Cuban applauds before Game 3 of the 2016 Western Conference Quarterfinals. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

You’re not going to believe this, but Mark Cuban disagrees with the commissioner of the NBA.

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Granted, this difference of opinion isn’t nearly as vast or volatile as the ones Cuban shared with longtime foe and eventual friend David Stern, but one day after Commissioner Adam Silver said he believes so-called “super-teams” like the reloaded Golden State Warriors aren’t “good for the league,” the owner of the Dallas Mavericks offered a dissenting perspective. From Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com:

Mark Cuban believes Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Golden State Warriors will benefit the NBA from a business perspective, despite commissioner Adam Silver’s concerns about the forming of a superteam.

Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner who has never shied away from going against the grain, is confident that adding a former MVP to a recent championship team that already features two-time MVP Stephen Curry and All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will drive interest in the league.

“They become the villain,” Cuban told ESPN on Wednesday, a day after Silver indicated that changes in the collective bargaining agreement are needed to prevent similar situations from developing in the future. “Just like when LeBron James went to Miami, I loved that there was a villain. They become the villain. I’m fine with that. Everybody’s going to root for them to lose.”

Well, of course Cuban loved it when LeBron took his talents to South Beach. Not only did the Big Three Miami Heat give the NBA a bad guy to boo; it allowed his Dirk Nowitzki-led Dallas Mavericks to rise up as the hero to cheer. (Things haven’t gone so well for the Mavs since then.)

And while opinions on the Mavericks’ offseason moves might vary, the Warriors’ pursuit of Durant allowed Dallas to fill out its starting five with a trade for center Andrew Bogut and a maximum-salaried contract offer to small forward Harrison Barnes, both of whom Golden State general manager Bob Myers had to jettison in order to carve out the cap space to fit Durant into the Warriors’ puzzle. Considering Dallas had previously come up empty in attempts to lure Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside and Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, Golden State’s change of course “sure helped” the Mavs, Cuban said.

Cuban’s take comes in stark contrast to the one forwarded by Silver after the NBA Board of Governors’ meeting at Las Vegas Summer League on Tuesday night:

“I’ve read several stories suggesting that that’s something that the league wants, this notion of two super-teams, that it’s a huge television attraction,” Silver said. “I don’t think it’s good for the league, just to be really clear. I will say whoever is the prohibitive favorite, try telling that to the 430 other players who aren’t on those two teams. I mean, we have the greatest collection of basketball players in the world in our league, and so I’m not making any predictions, but there’s no question, when you aggregate a group of great players, they have a better chance of winning than many other teams.

“On the other hand, there are lots of things that have to happen. We’ll see what happens in Golden State,” he continued. “You had a great, great chemistry among a group of players and you’re adding another superstar to the mix, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens. But just to be absolutely clear, I do not think that’s ideal from a league standpoint.”

When you really dig into it, though, Cuban and Silver are focusing on two different things. Silver, as ever, is honing on the eternally tilted-at windmill of “competitive balance,” the goal that fans in every market can “have that belief that if their team is well-managed that they can compete […] all feel like they have an equal chance.” (It’s a goal that not everybody thinks has players’ best interests at heart.) Cuban’s thinking about the largest total number of eyeballs on and interest in the league. It might seem like those two focal points should overlap totally, but they don’t, really.

There’s a reason that stories from each of the past two Junes about ABC’s NBA Finals coverage generating huge viewership numbers have hailed those Warriors/Cleveland Cavaliers games as among the highest-rated series “since the Jordan era,” and it’s because general national interest in the NBA was never higher than when one singular dominant figure, Michael Jordan, and one singular dominant team, the Chicago Bulls, won six titles in eight years during the 1990s. Similarly, there’s a reason why many fans consider the league’s heyday to be the 1980s, when the Hall-of-Famer-heavy rosters of the Larry Bird-led Boston Celtics and Magic Johnson-led Los Angeles Lakers dominated the league, the headlines and the conversation. From David Aldridge at Bleacher Report:

People dream about parity. They actually watch potential and/or realized dynasties.

Once again: The most democratic decade in NBA history was the 1970s, when eight different teams — New York, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Boston, Golden State, Portland, Washington and Seattle — won titles. And the league was so unpopular that its playoffs and championship series were shown on tape delay at 11:30 p.m.

We won’t be able to take our eyes off the Warriors, who’ll be capable of scoring 150 points on any given night.

That’s true whether you’re tuning in to see whether the Warriors can put their superstar pieces together to form one of the greatest offenses of all time … or, as I wrote after Durant agreed to join the Dubs, if you want to see if they’ll crash and burn:

A better regular season than Golden State’s record-setting 73-9 campaign seems awfully tough to expect — remember, the Big Three Miami Heat stumbled out of the gate, and the Kobe-Dwight-Nash-Pau Los Angeles Lakers never got close to the superteam many expected — but if the principals work out the kinks quickly, this may be the most potent single-season offense we’ve ever seen. And hey, that’s good for every other fan base, too.

Remember how much fun everyone had rooting against those expected Goliaths? Warriors fans got the setup for the mother of all sequels to #ArrogantSZN; non-Warriors fans just got a worthy target for their frustration, anger and derision, an avatar for all their sports hate […]

A concentration of top players like the Warriors have with Durant, Curry, Thompson and Green might not be how Silver envisions the league working. To some degree, though, it’s the way it always has, going back to the Wilt-West-Elgin Lakers, of Kareem and Shaq pushing their way to L.A., of Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman teaming up in Detroit, of Rodman joining Michael and Scottie in Chicago, of Karl Malone and Gary Payton joining the Shaq-and-Kobe Lakers, of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen teaming up with Paul Pierce in Boston, of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash linking up with Kobe and Pau Gasol in Hollywood, of LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joining forces in Miami, and of LeBron heading back to Cleveland with Kyrie Irving in tow and a deal in place to land Kevin Love.

Some of those teams won titles; others didn’t. But the combination of their exploits and opponents’ attempts to knock them off generated the kind of interest, and revenue, that tends to prove a rising tide lifting all boats — even if smaller-market owners are, for the moment, steaming at the reality of the rule changes they pushed for in 2011 resulting in a bigger, badder by-the-Bay rendition of what they opposed in South Florida.

Maybe Cuban’s right, and giving everybody else a heel to jeer will stoke the flamer of fan fervor to new levels. Maybe Silver’s right, and the new-look Warriors will prove so dominant so quickly and so completely that they’ll remove all mystery and wonder about which team will hoist the O’Brien come next June. For now, though, it’s all speculation and conjecture … and when you’re the owner of the team that just landed the biggest fish in the pond, you tend to dismiss it all.

“Let them talk,” Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob said in response to the “super-team” debate. Just as long as they’re watching, too.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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