Mark Cuban

Community Shootaround: In-Season Tournament

Details are still being worked out regarding a proposed in-season tournament, but the NBA appears to be targeting the 2023/24 season to implement it.

Shams Charania of The Athletic reported this week that the current framework has cup games being held throughout November with eight teams advancing to a single-elimination format that would be played in December. All the games would count toward the teams’ regular-season record, and the finalists would each have one extra game.

The tournament would have to be approved by the players union, and the two sides are continuing to sort through ideas. One important step will be deciding what incentives will be given to the final eight teams to make advancing worth the effort. Charania states that the Competition Committee discussed the tournament last September and considered prize money of $1MM per player for the winning team.

Commissioner Adam Silver has been a longtime proponent of the in-season tournament, believing it will eventually become as popular as a similar event in European soccer. Silver said in February that the players appear more receptive toward the idea after seeing the success of the play-in tournament that determines the final two playoff spots in each conference.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told NBA writer Marc Stein that he has changed his mind about the in-season tournament and is “actually open to it,” starting with next season (Twitter link). Cuban said the event “has a chance to build interest” for the league during the early part of its schedule.

Cuban also proposes expanding the draft from two to four rounds and giving the first pick in the two new rounds to the tournament winner (Twitter link). He would add the stipulation that those two picks cannot be traded. Like the tournament itself, any changes to the draft process would require NBPA approval.

We want to get your opinion. Do you believe an in-season tournament would cause more fans to pay attention to the NBA during the fall? And do you see merit in Cuban’s idea to expand the draft? Please leave your answers in the space below.

Mark Cuban Suggests Mavericks Don’t Need A “Second Star”

Asked by Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report (video link) whether Luka Doncic has enough talent surrounding him to win a title, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban suggested Dallas already has the pieces in place to accomplish that goal.

“We hadn’t been out of the first round in 10 years and so a lot of it was execution and talking to our guys during the series, that was the thing that kept coming up,” Cuban said of the Western Conference Finals matchup against the Warriors (hat tip to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops.net). “… So I think for us it’s not so much we need that second star or whatever, it’s more, let’s just get some time and experience in crunch time situations in the playoffs and that will pay off.”

As we relayed last night, Cuban also credited Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins as a difference-maker in the series, and said Golden State’s combination of execution, experience, and adjustments made the team too difficult for the Mavericks to handle.

Cuban’s comments are noteworthy for a few different reasons. After trading Kristaps Porzingis to the Wizards for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans, the Mavs found success with lineups featuring multiple shot creators and floor spacers, as well as more versatile defenders. Obviously Porzingis was pegged to be Dallas’ second star, but things never really worked out with the 7’3″ big man for a variety of reasons.

He didn’t state it outright, but Cuban’s comments give the impression the club didn’t view Jalen Brunson as a star, and the Mavs were reportedly unwilling to match — or exceed — the contract he received in free agency from the Knicks. Brunson had a strong playoff run for Dallas, averaging 21.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 3.7 APG on .466/.347/.800 shooting in 18 games (34.9 MPG), so losing him will sting.

Along the same lines, it could be interpreted that Dallas doesn’t view offseason acquisition Christian Wood as a star either. The Mavs traded the No. 26 pick of the 2022 draft and four players on expiring deals to Houston to land Wood.

Of course, how a team perceives players doesn’t matter nearly as much as the on-court product, and the Mavs are coming off their most successful season since winning the championship in 2011. The question is, have they done enough to keep progressing toward another ring? With the Clippers and Nuggets getting healthy, potential improvement from the Timberwolves and Pelicans, and the Warriors, Grizzlies and Suns still in the picture, the West is going to be stacked with talent in 2022/23, so winning the title certainly won’t be easy.

Rooks’ interview with Cuban lasts over an hour and is worth checking out in full for any Dallas fans.

Pacific Notes: Wiggins, LeBron Extension, Kings

Appearing with Taylor Rooks on her Bleacher Report show, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban cited Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins as the difference in the Western Conference Finals. Wiggins was outstanding in the five-game series, averaging 18.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per night while shooting 46.2% from the field.

“It was just guys who knew their roles, like an Andrew Wiggins,” Cuban said. “I think he was the one who beat us. And I told him that after the series, you know? We knew what to expect from Klay (Thompson), from (Stephen Curry) and from Draymond (Green). We didn’t know what to expect or how Wiggs would step up, and he did.”

Cuban doesn’t believe there’s a huge talent disparity between his team and the eventual NBA champions, but he said Golden State benefited from having its core together for so many years.

“I think the Warriors deserve a lot of credit because they had played together so long, their execution was phenomenal,” he said. “… That wasn’t as much talent as it was corporate knowledge, the experience of having played together for all those years and been in crunch situations knowing what to do.” 

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Now that LeBron James has agreed to an extension, the Lakers‘ best strategy may be to commit to trying to win a championship this season instead of targeting 2024 or 2025, contends Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Buha believes James’ decision on the extension was tied to a promise from management to be aggressive about improving the roster. Sources around the team had been confident that James would eventually commit to a longer stay with the Lakers, Buha adds.
  • The Lakers may have doomed themselves to more years of mediocrity with the James extension, writes Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times. He argues that James isn’t good enough to carry a team to a title anymore, while Anthony Davis is too injury-prone and James’ deal ensures that the franchise won’t have enough cap room to add another star while he’s still around.
  • Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee examines the Kings‘ schedule to see whether it will help or hurt their effort to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

Knicks Notes: Brunson, Keels, Grimes, Gibson

The Knicks are expected to add Jalen Brunson via cap space rather than trying to work out a sign-and-trade deal with the Mavericks, tweets Fred Katz of The Athletic. Brunson agreed to a four-year, $104MM contract with New York shortly after the start of free agency on June 30. But the signing hasn’t been made official yet as the Knicks review their options on the best way to add him to the roster.

Marc Stein confirms that a signing using cap room is the most likely option (Twitter link), and a source tells him that Monday is probably the soonest it will happen.

Brunson played an important role in helping Dallas reach the Western Conference finals, but Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tells Steve Popper of Newsday there are “no hard feelings” about his departure. Cuban said he never got a chance to make a final offer, but acknowledged that it may not have mattered given Brunson’s close ties to the Knicks organization.

“I wish him nothing but the best,” Cuban said. “You bust your [butt] and you have that choice. He deserves it. It happens. It’s the way this league works. It’s a business. You trade a player, you say it’s a business. You lose a player, it’s a business. It’s just the way it goes.”

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Trevor Keels, who’s expected to fill a two-way slot in New York, admits having “chills” before his first Summer League game, per Zach Braziller of The New York Post. After sliding to No. 42 in last month’s draft, Keels is determined to prove that he should have been taken higher. “I didn’t think I was going to [get drafted] that low. But it is what it is,” he said. “Of course, I’m going to make sure all the teams pay that passed up on me. But I’m excited I’m a Knick. I wouldn’t change it for anything.” 
  • Quentin Grimes had eight assists along with a team-high 24 points in the Summer League opener and has been working on becoming a better play-maker, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. For the second straight year, Grimes spent part of the offseason working with University of Memphis coach Penny Hardaway“He’s kind of like a big uncle to me,” Grimes said. “Just took me under his wing and helped me play the point guard position a lot better. Because that’s what I was in high school.”
  • After waiving Taj Gibson this week, the Knicks were hoping to bring him back on a veteran’s minimum contract, but he believed he had a better chance at playing time with the Wizards, tweets Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

Western Notes: McGee, Doncic, Brunson, Mavs, Williamson

Veteran center and unrestricted free agent JaVale McGee said he’s interested in re-signing with the Suns this offseason, according to Kellan Olson of ArizonaSports.com.

“Definitely consider it, definitely consider an opportunity,” McGee said. “At this point in my career, I’m definitely focused on myself and what’s best for me and my situation and my family. I know what I bring to a team if it’s any organization that I go to. For me, that’s what it’s all about. Make sure I’m valuing myself as much as the team (is) valuing me.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Luka Doncic will be informed of potential roster moves via frequent contact with head coach Jason Kidd, owner Mark Cuban, GM Nico Harrison and assistant GM Michael Finley, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News reports. Doncic will not be taking it easy this summer. He’ll start practicing with the Slovenian National Team on June 15 ahead of World Cup qualifying matches against Croatia (June 30) and Sweden (July 3). He’ll re-join the national team in August to prepare for EuroBasket, which begins Sept. 1 in Cologne, Germany.
  • Doncic wants free agent Jalen Brunson to remain his backcourt partner, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News writes. “The step – the huge leap – he took this year was unbelievable,” Doncic said. “And he’s going to deserve all the money he gets.” The Mavericks have made their desire to retain Brunson known but they also want to acquire a quality big man — a rebounder and rim-protector. “That’s no secret. We know we got beat up on the boards,” Harrison said after the conference finals.
  • Zion Williamson no longer has any restrictions from his foot injury. So how will he fit in with a Pelicans team that showed vast improvement in the second half of the season? Will Guillory of The Athletic takes a closer look at that topic.

And-Ones: EuroLeague, Cuban, All-NBA Voting, DPOY

The EuroLeague is considering a future with no Russian teams in the wake of the nation’s invasion of Ukraine, according to EuroHoops. League CEO Jordi Bertomeu said in a radio interview with Serbia’s “Maxbet” that the topic will be addressed after the season ends.

It is too early to talk about that, we need to see what the situation will be like,” Bertomeu said. “It will be clearer after the Final Four. We see what the circumstances will be like. If it stays as it is now, it will be very difficult for Russian clubs to return. We will suggest some things to the club.”

Last month, the league suspended its three Russian squads — CSKA Moscow, Zenit Saint Petersburg, UNICS Kazan — for the remainder of the season. They were also banned from all European competitions and the games they have already played won’t count in the league’s final standings. Zenit St. Petersburg and UNICS Kazan have single-season EuroLeague licenses, but the situation may be more complex with CSKA Moscow, which has a longer commitment with a multi-year A license.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wants to see Team USA go back to using college players in international competitions, per Steve Bulpett of Heavy. Some NBA players have said that playing for the national team requires too much of a commitment because it involves the Olympics and the World Cup as well as qualifying tournaments for both events. “I would start our own World Cup and get us out of the Olympics for players over 21,” Cuban said.
  • Players and media members are both uncomfortable with having contract values affected by All-NBA voting, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. A provision in the 2017 CBA makes players who sign max contracts eligible for a larger share of the salary cap if they’re on two all-NBA teams in the final three years of their rookie contracts or if they just earn a spot in their fourth season. That means the voting can be worth millions of dollars. “There’s no criteria set for the media, for the voters, who they should vote for,” Celtics star Jayson Tatum said on J.J. Redick’s podcast earlier this year. “It’s all opinion-based. There’s no ‘he should have to play this many games or make the playoffs or average this many points.’ It’s all like, ‘Well, I like this guy a little bit more,’ or certain things like that. There’s just too much on the line for that.”
  • Perimeter players such as Marcus Smart and Mikal Bridges want more consideration in Defensive Player of the Year voting, states Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Centers have won the award in 25 of its 39 years.

Donnie Nelson Sues Mavericks

Ex-GM Donnie Nelson has sued his former club, the Mavericks, alleging he was fired by owner Mark Cuban in June of 2021 as retaliation for reporting sexual misconduct, according to Don Van Natta Jr. of ESPN.

Nelson’s lawsuit alleges he was fired for reporting that his nephew was sexually harassed and assaulted by Cuban’s chief of staff, Jason Lutin, during a job interview on February 16, 2020, Natta writes.

Cuban offered Nelson $52MM to withdraw a wrongful termination claim and sign a confidentiality agreement regarding the alleged harassment and assault, the lawsuit alleges. The unsigned agreement is attached to the lawsuit, with the Mavs admitting no wrongdoing but barring Nelson from discussing or disclosing the allegations.

Cuban denied the allegations in an email to ESPN.

Everything in that filing is a lie,” Cuban wrote. “We did multiple complete investigations and the only person that did not live up to the standards of the Dallas Mavericks was Mr. Nelson. He was fired as a result. He was well aware of the investigation. He refused to fully participate. I will say it again, everything he said is a lie.”

Lutin also denied the allegations in an email to Natta.

What this man [Nelson] is doing to someone like me is absolutely unspeakable. It’s a complete lie and I defer to Mavs to comment and who have already dealt with this matter,” Lutin said. “And obviously have a lot of information to show none of that ever happened.”

Nelson didn’t find out about the incident with his nephew, who isn’t named, until five months after it occurred, by which point the nephew had reached a settlement agreement with the team for an undisclosed amount, the lawsuit states.

When he learned about the alleged incident, Nelson was reportedly in negotiations on a 10-year contract extension with Cuban, whom he then confronted regarding Lutin’s alleged actions. A couple months later, Cuban withdrew a 10-year, $66MM extension offer, according to the lawsuit.

In a statement to ESPN’s Natta, Nelson said he filed the lawsuit “on behalf of my family and all the Mavericks employees who have experienced harassment, discrimination, or retaliation in the workplace.”

Filing a lawsuit is not something to be taken lightly — however, it was extremely important that I speak up,” Nelson said. “The facts that come out in this lawsuit will hopefully protect the incredible people I’ve had the honor and privilege of working with during my 24 years with the Mavericks.”

Nelson, who was originally hired by the Mavs in 1998, was promoted to the role of GM/president in 2005 and had been one of the NBA’s longest-tenured lead basketball operations executives.

In 2018, the Sports Illustrated released a report which painted “a picture of a corporate culture rife with misogyny and predatory sexual behavior” within the Mavericks organization, focusing particularly on former Mavs president and CEO Terdema Ussery and former Mavs.com beat writer Earl K. Sneed.

The resulting investigation substantiated the report, and the Mavs were found to have “serious workplace misconduct by former and current employees,” along with “improper or ineffective management.” Cuban, who was not implicated in the 2018 report, donated $10MM to organizations that “promote women in leadership roles and combat domestic violence.”

There are more details on Nelson’s lawsuit in Natta’s report for ESPN, which can be found here.

Mavs Notes: Nowitzki, Cuban, Kleber, Doncic, Ntilikina

As first reported last week by Marc Stein (Twitter link) and later confirmed by the team, the Mavericks will retire Dirk Nowitzki‘s No. 41 jersey on January 5, when they host the Warriors in Dallas.

Nowitzki will join Rolando Blackman (No. 22), Brad Davis (No. 15), and Derek Harper (No. 12) as Mavericks players who have had their jersey numbers retired by the franchise. All three players are expected to be in attendance for the ceremony on January 5, along with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, writes Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com.

“Dirk is everything to the Mavs. First, 41.21.1,” team owner Mark Cuban said, referring to Nowitzki becoming the first NBA player to spend 21 seasons with a single team. “And now, lifting his jersey to the rafters. It is a special day for the Mavs and Mavs fans around the world.”

Here’s more out of Dallas:

  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban spoke on Sunday to a handful of reporters, including Mark Medina of NBA.com, about the team’s start to the season, his first impressions of new general manager Nico Harrison, and Nowitzki’s jersey retirement ceremony, among other topics. “He’s a learner,” Cuban said of Harrison. “To me, that’s always the most important part. Can you deal with the people? Can you get the results? And are you a learner? He’s a learner. He’s a sponge and always open to things. So I’m happy with what’s going on.”
  • Maxi Kleber returned to action on Sunday for the Mavs after sitting out nine games with a left oblique strain, but Luka Doncic remained sidelined, missing his third consecutive game due to left knee and ankle sprains. Doncic was a game-time decision on Sunday, which suggests he’s close to getting back on the court. Dallas is 0-3 without him after starting the season with a 9-4 record.
  • Mavs guard Frank Ntilikina left Sunday’s game due to a right calf injury and didn’t return (Twitter link). The severity of the injury isn’t yet known.

Former Mavs Exec Voulgaris Discusses Tension With Nelson, Exit From Team

Appearing on the ESPN Daily podcast with Pablo Torre, former Mavericks executive Haralabos Voulgaris publicly addressed for the first time his exit from the franchise and reports of discord between him and longtime head of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, who also left the team this offseason.

A report from The Athletic in June stated that Voulgaris had either initiated or approved nearly all of the Mavs’ roster moves for the last two seasons and suggested his influence was virtually on par with Nelson’s. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who worked with Voulgaris in the past and brought him aboard in 2018 as the team’s director of quantitative research and development, disputed The Athletic’s portrayal of how much power the executive had. However, Voulgaris’ abrasive personality was reportedly a source of some tension in the front office and he was said to have a “strained” relationship with star guard Luka Doncic.

As Tim MacMahon of ESPN details, Voulgaris told Torre the Mavericks’ basketball operations department was a “very gossipy workplace” and likened the team’s dysfunction to “high school drama.” Although he denied some details from The Athletic’s report – including that he dictated lineups and rotations to then-coach Rick Carlisle – he didn’t challenge others.

Voulgaris told Torre that he came to believe Nelson “didn’t want me around,” adding that other people in the front office may have felt threatened by his close relationship with Cuban.

“I didn’t have a working relationship with other people in the front office at all, to the point where it was awkward,” Voulgaris said. “But that’s kind of the M.O. of the way that front office was run — like, surround yourself with people who are not threats. You don’t become an NBA general manager and hold on to your job for that long unless you are very, very good at keeping your job.

“… I think Mark had this idea that maybe we (Voulgaris and Nelson) could work together, the stuff that he’s good at I might be deficient at and vice versa,” Voulgaris continued. “(Nelson is) more of a, kind of like a wheeler-dealer, like when you shake his hands, you want to make sure your rings are still there. Not in a bad way, but he’s that guy. He’s a deal-maker. He’s a broker. My working relationship with Donnie Nelson was seeing him every once in a while and getting a fist bump. That was it. Whether it was a fist-bump text message or a fist bump in person, that was his thing. He was very nice and cordial to my face, (but) I think threatened by me.”

Voulgaris also confirmed The Athletic’s claim that his relationship with Doncic worsened after he left his courtside seat with the Mavericks down 10 points and under a minute left in a game in April. Doncic viewed it as a sign of Voulgaris quitting on the team, while the executive considered it a non-issue and was upset that others in the organization didn’t back him up at all.

“You have a great relationship with this player. Why are you not telling him that I didn’t quit on the team?” Voulgaris said, referring to one of the Mavs’ assistant coaches, possibly Jamahl Mosley. “I just went to my desk to look at something on my computer or got up because I normally get up. There are plenty of other instances of me getting up in the middle of the game. … It was such a non-event that I didn’t think it was a big deal, and the fact that it became a big deal led me to believe that this is just not worth it to me.”

Voulgaris wasn’t fired by the Mavs, and didn’t step down from his role either — his contract simply expired and the two sides didn’t work out a new deal. While the franchise may have been seeking a fresh start following the hiring of Nico Harrison to replace Nelson, Voulgaris made it clear that he also felt his time in Dallas had run its course.

“If I’m distracting that f—ing guy (Doncic), I don’t need to be around,” Voulgaris said. “Whatever the case may be, no matter how I see it, it doesn’t matter at the end of the day. He is the fulcrum of the team. So I was like, ‘Cool.’ Plus, I was trying to find a way out of this job to begin with.”

Southwest Notes: Mavs, Grizzlies, Rockets, Pelicans, Gordon

Appearing on the podcast 10 Questions with Kyle Brandt, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he has a vaccine mandate for his employees.

“It is your choice. It is absolutely, positively up to you. But there are consequences that come with that,” Cuban said, per Selby Lopez of The Dallas Morning News. “If you work for me, I require my employees to be vaccinated unless there’s a doctor’s reason where they can’t be.”

Since the NBA doesn’t require its players to be vaccinated, that mandate doesn’t apply to the players on Dallas’ roster such as Trey Burke, who said during training camp he remains unvaccinated.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • John Hollinger of The Athletic interprets the Grizzlies‘ summer trades of Jonas Valanciunas and Grayson Allen as signals that the team isn’t feeling pressure to take another big step forward after making the playoffs last season. Hollinger expects his old club’s end-of-season record to look similar to last year’s, projecting a 41-41 finish.
  • Hollinger also recapped the offseason and previewed the upcoming season for the Rockets and Pelicans. He was confused by Houston’s four-year commitment to Daniel Theis, given that most other veterans on the roster seem to be on the trade block, but expects the Rockets to be entertaining in 2021/22, projecting 26 wins. Hollinger had mixed feelings on New Orleans’ offseason, but suggests the moves look better in totality than they did individually at the time, and forecasts 43 wins for the Pels.
  • Rahat Huq of The Houston Chronicle explores whether the Rockets should hang onto Eric Gordon or focus on trying to find a trade that gets him to a contender as soon as possible. As Huq observes, it’s difficult to find a good match for Gordon at this point, so it probably makes sense for the team to sit tight and see if more opportunities open up by the trade deadline or next offseason.