Cuban On Dirk, Dwight, Roster Construction

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is never shy about expressing his opinion, with the possible exception of his superstitious refusal to criticize the league or its referees during his team's 2011 playoff run. The latest post on his personal blog shows Cuban in typical form as he opens up about his feelings on the Mavs and player movement around the league. He begins with a history lesson of sorts, explaining his moves from the past two years, and he transitions into his conclusions about the team's summer, a second straight offseason in which marquee free agents spurned the Mavs. Cuban shares plenty, including a link to a cartoon the team put together as part of its pitch to Dwight Howard. We'll hit a few highlights from Cuban's piece here:

On Dirk Nowitzki and his presence on the team:

"Culture is very important to the Mavs.  Your best player has to be a fit for what you want the culture of the team to be. He has to be someone who leads by example. Someone who sets the tone in the locker room and on the court.  It isn’t about who talks the most or the loudest. It is about the demeanor and attitude he brings.  It is amazing how when the culture is strong, the chemistry is strong.  When the Mavs have brought in players that didn’t fit or buy in to our culture it created on-the-court and off-the-court problems.  It's possible to handle one guy who may not fit it. It’s going to have a negative impact on your won-and-loss record if you have more than one. Our culture is one of the reasons I won’t trade Dirk."

On Howard and the way he would have fit into the team's culture:

"We saw it as somewhat of a risk, but felt like because Dwight, by all appearances and checking we did, is a good guy and with our support systems we believed we could make it work. If not, he was obviously a very trade-able asset.  But, as everyone knows, we didn’t sign him. He went to the Rockets.  I do have to say the meeting with Dwight was very interesting. He is a smart guy. Much smarter than people give him credit for. He is also a very, very good listener.  Unlike most people, he spent far more time listening than talking.  And he had the best response to an opening question that I have ever heard from a player, or anyone for that matter.  When we asked him what his goal was, his response was very specific: 'I want to be Epic.' Which was a perfect lead-in to the video we created for him."

On building a championship team:

"I see quite a few teams taking what appears to be the same approach to building a team.  I can understand why they are taking this approach. In the current CBA the value of a player chosen in the draft can be considerable because of the defined contract terms.  And if you put together some great young players, it is very enticing to want to keep those players together for a long period. But I also know that even if you have the worst record in the NBA, you may not get the top pick and even if you do, there is a material chance you pick the wrong player, or it just happens to be a draft when there are not any IDENTIFIABLE superstar potential players at the top of the draft. In other words, while it may be popular, I think the quantity of teams taking the same approach makes it more difficult to build a team in this manner."

On the team's strategy this offseason:

"If we had gotten a single, max-out free agent that cost us $19 or $20MM, we would have had a good team. Possibly a great team if we were able to add the right minimum contract players around our core plus our new max-out free agent.  But we probably would not have had a championship-contending team.  It would be next year when we had cap room again and we would add what would hopefully be the finishing pieces either through free agency or through trade. If we didn’t get our max-out player, we had planned to accelerate what we would have done next year to this year. Which we obviously did."

On the coming season and the future for the Mavs:

"If we stay healthy, I think we can have a good team. How good? I don’t make predictions.  I do believe that by having a core of players that we can grow and develop with, and cap room in the upcoming season and what we feel is the ability to develop and improve the performance of our players, we are in a good position for this year and for the future.  We have been hurt by not having a core of players in place that free agents see as teammates they want to play with.  That shouldn’t be the case next year."

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