Monday, August 5, 2013

Thoughts on the Cuban Blog

by Jeff Bowers

In Einstein’s theory of relativity, the observance of time and events is directly affected by the force of gravity acting on the object. The stronger the pull, the slower the passage of time is perceived by the individual. Somehow it seems as though people with strong and “magnetic” personalities have that same effect. Case in point: the latest offering from the Mark Cuban blog.
To begin, let me state my positioning. I have been enormously critical of the direction of the club for the last 2 seasons since the break-up of the title team. The pursuit of “the big fish” in free agency without any assets except an aging superstar and “dry powder” seemed foolhardy at best. I felt Cuban and company wasted the final few years of Dirk’s prime and are only now beginning to see that. I had grown so frustrated, in fact, that abandoning the team I loved since its inception became a real possibility like an abused lover who just had to run for it. It pained me so much to see my tiny little hometown team, having just taken me to heights I had never dreamed, fall into mediocrity so fast due to pride and stubbornness. That having been said, the recent capitulation of Mark Cuban of mistakes of the past and the hiring of new GM Gersson Rosas from Houston to ostensibly help with the woeful draft record seemed encouraging and I tore up the divorce paperwork. And that is why the article on Cuban’s blog this weekend is conflicting.

As a self-made billionaire, I have so much respect for Mark Cuban’s business acumen, his courage and his audacity. He could sell a bottle of water to a drowning man, cut a deal so shrewd the Devil himself would lose out and then go on TV and make it all sound totally awesome. That is an amazing skill set I only wished I had. However, as Voltaire and Spiderman tell us, “with great power comes great responsibility” and I worry that Cuban loses sight of that at times. While thinking outside the box is fantastic, in sports there is also a tradition and procedure that must at least be given its proper respects, AKA the Sports Gods. Now this does not mean that we must all bow down and give the Lakers every good big man ever. But it does mean that the Lakers hold more gravitas than the Mavericks, and probably always will. So you cannot compete with them directly in the free agent market, in general. You must find a different way. Like how the A’s use moneyball to compete with the Yankees. For a while, the Mavericks had that. Between their lead in the foreign markets thanks to Donnie Nelson and Cuban’s endless piles of cash in trade deals, the Mavs put up 10+ years of the best basketball this town has ever seen. However, the rest of the league soon caught up on the Euros (and even surpassed in the case of the Spurs) and Cuban finally pulled back on the purse strings (and rightly so). Even the “perks” of the facilities became a non-factor.

So the question becomes: What makes your team unique in its ability to compete in the NBA today?

Answer: Nothing

In Cuban’s blog, he tells us where his mindset was as the NBA sludged through the dark days of the lockout and the new CBA. He tells how he thought the 2011 season would be lost and how a strike-shortened season was not conducive to his older roster. He recounts his “new path forward” in a NBA with a real cap (in this blog and in past ones) and how he would get out in front of it. At this point, I am reminded of those original developers who began building houses in a tiny outlying suburb of Frisco, TX in the 80’s. They were way ahead of the curve. However, they also all went bankrupt before the rest of the metroplex caught up to them. But I digress.
At this point the blog shifts a little and talks about culture. On this point I completely agree with Mark. An attitude and tradition of winning is paramount in a franchise and should not be sacrificed. I absolutely agree that he cannot and will not trade Dirk, nor should the Mavs “tank” games or seasons to improve their draft stock. Sorry teams do that and usually they stay sorry. The Clippers have all kinds of superstars on their roster. Still not winning titles.
However when Cuban speaks of culture, he then tries to tell us that Dwight Howard was a good idea. WHAT?! I understand that having the best big man in the game makes your team better. But nothing that dude has done in his NBA career tells me he has anything close to the culture of a winner. Now, if his point is that Dirk could show him how to be a winner, I reluctantly buy that. Though Kobe’s a hell of a competitor and Dwight wanted no part of that (though I don’t blame him). And this is where the blog begins to lose me and brings me back to my original point.
The actions this team has taken over the past few seasons and the reasoning Mark Cuban gives us in this blog are inconsistent. He tells us the team is better for having gotten winning pieces rather than a superstar, yet spent 2 entire years in pursuit of just that. And I fully expect we’ll hear that same song and dance next off-season about LeBron and Carmelo. Then they won’t come here and Cuban will tweet that “we didn’t really want them anyway.” Maddening. In addition, usable pieces are something fans like myself have been screaming for, only to be told that “dry powder” and salary cap space was the answer. So now this season we begin to acquire these pieces as opposed to 1 year mercenaries. Once Dirk is 35. Hmm. To this wonderful stew add a generous helping of poor and seemingly lethargic drafting over the past 10 years by this organization, though as I said, a problem that they appear to be addressing. And what are we left with? A team whose owner decried mediocrity now telling us we hope to be a 5th or 6th seed in the West.
From the Mavs bloggers and possibly Cuban himself, I will likely get excoriated for my lack of knowledge or expertise. And they may be right. All I know is the facts of the last few seasons. And I hope that I stand far enough outside the bubble of Cuban’s gravity to be objective and perceive things differently. My hope is that Cuban can come out here and visit me sometime on “The Satellite of Love” (MST3K reference) and get a snoot full of my perception as well.

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