Mark Cuban

Cuban: Implementing Play-In Tournament During Compressed Season A “Mistake”

Within the last 24 hours, Mavericks star Luka Doncic and team owner Mark Cuban have each criticized the concept of the NBA’s play-in tournament, as Tim MacMahon details in a pair of stories for ESPN.com.

Cuban is part of the NBA’s Board of Governors, which unanimously approved the proposal to implement a play-in tournament for the final two playoff spots in each conference. However, it sounds like the Mavericks owner is having second thoughts about the concept, calling it an “enormous mistake” to introduce the play-in games during a compressed season.

“The worst part of this approach is that it doubles the stress of the compressed schedule,” Cuban told ESPN. “Rather than playing for a playoff spot and being able to rest players as the standings become clearer, teams have to approach every game as a playoff game to either get into or stay in the top six since the consequences, as Luka said, are enormous. So players are playing more games and more minutes in fewer days.”

Cuban’s comments came the day after his franchise player offered his own criticism of the play-in idea.

“I don’t understand the idea of a play-in,” Doncic said on Monday. “You play 72 games to get into the playoffs, then maybe you lose two in a row and you’re out of the playoffs. So I don’t see the point of that.”

The play-in tournament will pit the seventh and eighth teams in each conference against one another, with the winner securing the No. 7 seed. The loser of that game will then face the winner of a game between the ninth and 10th seeds for the final playoff spot.

Cuban’s complaint about implementing the play-in tournament during a compressed schedule is valid, since teams are more concerned than ever about keeping players healthy while playing 72 games in 146 days (instead of the usual 82 in 177) following a shortened offseason.

Still, it’s hard to separate Cuban’s and Doncic’s critiques of the play-in tournament from Dallas’ place in the standings. The Mavericks currently have a 29-24 record, putting them seventh in the West and two games back of the sixth-seeded Trail Blazers. It’s perhaps no coincidence that Cuban offered an alternate solution that would allow the Mavs to avoid a play-in game.

“I get why the NBA is doing it,” Cuban said of the play-in tournament. “But if we are going to be creative because of COVID, we should go straight up 1-20 and let the bottom four (seeds) play in.”

If the league were to seed teams regardless of conference, allowing the top 12 to secure automatic postseason berths while the next eight participated in a play-in, the Mavs would be in better shape — they hold the NBA’s 10th-best record.

Cuban: Mavs Only Interested In Acquiring Another Star

The Mavericks don’t plan on making any trades before next Thursday’s deadline unless they can acquire a star player, owner Mark Cuban said recently on the Mavs Step Back Podcast (video link).

“Unless it’s a game-changing star, I don’t see us doing anything at all,” he said. “So, if someone decides they’re blowing it up, OK, we’ll talk to anybody about any great player. If it’s just ‘We’ll trade this guy for that guy’ and it’s not really going to move the needle, I’d rather go with continuity.”

Cuban added that the only other circumstances in which the Mavs would look to make a trade are if another team “makes a mistake” or offers a “great player” in a salary-dump deal.

The most significant trade the Mavs made during the offseason was sending Seth Curry to the 76ers for Josh Richardson and the rights to Tyler Bey. They also dealt Justin Jackson, a 2023-second rounder and a 2026 second-rounder to the Thunder and Delon Wright to the Pistons for James Johnson. In terms of free agency, they re-signed Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Burke.

Cuban said those moves – which allowed the team to retain 2021 cap space – had nothing to do with hoping that Giannis Antetokounmpo or other stars would chose free agency this offseason.

“The changes we made, the trades we made weren’t about setting us up for the coming summer,” Cuban said. “Not at all. We wanted defense, we wanted toughness and that’s what we went out and got.”

Western Notes: Porzingis, Spurs, Hollins, Azubuike

Having disputed a Bleacher Report story that indicated the Mavericks have gauged the trade market to get a sense of Kristaps Porzingis‘ value, team owner Mark Cuban also took exception to a specific part of Jake Fischer’s report.

Fischer cited one Western Conference executive who described Porzingis as looking like a “scarecrow” on defense and who added, “I’m not sure the guy can guard anybody.” That quote didn’t sit well with Cuban, who expressed his displeasure to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link).

“We are not happy that there is a supposed ‘Western Conference exec’ ripping on one of our players,” Cuban said. “There is no trade discussion. I think they just used it as a way to put out there what they think of KP.”

Here’s more from around the West:

  • There’s no exact timeline for the return of the five Spurs players who are sidelined due to the health and safety protocols, head coach Gregg Popovich said on Monday night. “Each one is a little bit different,” Popovich said, per Tom Osborn of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). “It depends on the testing they do. So, I think a few more days, the quarantine period ends, but then there are a couple more days of more tests to see how it has affected them.”
  • Lakers assistant Lionel Hollins missed Monday’s game for personal reasons and isn’t traveling to Utah for Wednesday’s game either, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
  • The Jazz have recalled Udoka Azubuike from the G League, according to RealGM’s transactions log. The rookie center recently suffered a severe ankle sprain while playing for the Salt Lake City Stars and isn’t expected to be available anytime soon, so it seems he’ll move to the NBA squad while he continues his recovery.

Southwest Notes: Cuban, Pelicans, Rockets, Wood

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban spoke to his team prior to the club’s game against the Warriors on Saturday night, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News writes.

Cuban addressed the locker room at the request of head coach Rick Carlisle, whose Mavs are now 3-7 in its last 10 games.

“He was just very encouraging about the entire situation,” Carlisle said. “He reiterated that we’ve had the toughest schedule in the league to this point, that we have an opportunity here and none of these games are going to be easy.

“He just wanted everybody to know that he was fully supportive of everything and everybody. Good stuff from the heart.”

The Mavericks defeated the Warriors 134-132 in the contest, led by Luka Doncic‘s 42 points, seven rebounds, and 11 assists. The team, which has been impacted by injuries, holds the second-worst record in the Western Conference at 10-14.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Pelicans have emphasized the meaning of “trust” in recent games, Christian Clark of Nola.com writes. New Orleans is on a three-game winning streak, and Stan Van Gundy, Zion Williamson, and others pointed to that as one reason why. “It’s just coming together and telling each other we trust each other to make the right play,” Williamson said. “Ultimately, I think it’s just trust with us.”
  • The Rockets are continuing to struggle with slow starts, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. Houston dropped a 116-106 contest to the Spurs on Saturday with another relatively slow start, causing the team to fight an uphill battle the rest of the game. The club is still 7-3 in its last 10 outings.
  • Houston will have to adjust without the likes of Christian Wood, who suffered a right ankle sprain last week and will be re-evaluated on a weekly basis, Feigen notes in a different story. The Rockets started DeMarcus Cousins on Saturday, who finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds. “You just go to know your personnel,” John Wall said. “It’s two different guys. It’s the game of basketball, knowing your guys and knowing where your guys like the ball and what type of position they like to be in. That’s my job, to make the game easier for him and put them in the right positions to be successful.”

Southwest Notes: House, Eubanks, Ball, Doncic

Forward Danuel House, who has not played since January 2, returned to Rockets practice on Monday, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets. House missed four games with back spasms, then was placed on the league’s health and safety protocols list. While Feigen adds that Houston will work House back in slowly, the 27-year-old said he expects to be ready to play on Tuesday, Kelly Iko of The Athletic tweets.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Prior to the postponement of the Pelicans-Spurs game on Monday, San Antonio’s Drew Eubanks was ironically removed from the league’s COVID-19 protocols list, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News tweets. The third-year big man has been out since January 7 due to those restrictions. He has appeared in three games this season.
  • Lonzo Ball may no longer be in the Pelicans’ long-term plans and there’s a real possibility they’ll decline their $14.36MM qualifying offer after this season, which would make him a restricted free agent, Seth Partnow of The Athletic opines. If New Orleans’ season continues to go sour, the franchise would likely prefer to trade him rather than allow the point guard to walk in free agency, Partnow adds.
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban will go to great lengths to keep his superstar Luka Doncic happy, as Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News details. Cuban has expressed interest in playing exhibition games in Slovenia, where Doncic grew up, and Spain, where he played for Real Madrid. The Mavs are confident that Doncic’s youth and talent will help them secure a top-level free agent during the offseason, Sherrington adds.

Southwest Notes: Silas, Stan Van Gundy, Cuban

Shortly before the Rockets hired Stephen Silas as their head coach, the longtime assistant called his father, former NBA player and coach Paul Silas, to say he expected to be passed over again, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. More than a month had passed since the younger Silas was first mentioned as a candidate to replace Mike D’Antoni, and he had become discouraged by the long wait.

“He said he wasn’t going to get this job,” Paul said. “I told him it was going to happen. I knew it was going to happen for him. They wanted to get him. He said, “I don’t think it’s going to happen, Dad.’ I said, ‘It is.’ And it did. I’m just happy as heck.”

Stephen has been around the NBA all his life, starting as a child when his All-Star father brought him into locker rooms. He landed his first job in the league in 1999 as a scout with the Hornets when Paul was their head coach. He later joined his father’s staff at age 27, becoming the league’s youngest assistant coach, and has worked in the NBA for the past 20 years.

“I thought it would happen because I had him as (an assistant) coach and he was doing a great job,” Paul said. “I just knew it was going to happen. He did a great job, I tell you. He really did. And he’ll do a great job now.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Stan Van Gundy is thrilled about the roster he’s inheriting as the new head coach of the Pelicans, according to Jim Eichenhofer of NBA.com. Although New Orleans is coming off a disappointing season, there’s plenty of talent on hand, led by Most Improved Player Brandon Ingram and No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson. “He’s one of those really tall, long guys who plays like a point guard, who can get to anywhere on the floor and score the ball,” Van Gundy said of Ingram. “I don’t even know the comparison for Zion Williamson. He’s unique in the way he plays, but this is a guy coming off an injury for most of the year that was able to be extremely productive and efficient. There’s just not people like that. There’s a lot to build around there.”
  • Van Gundy will have to adjust to the NBA’s new style to be successful in New Orleans, contends William Guillory of The Athletic. The Pelicans ranked in the top five in pace of play in the past three seasons, and Van Gundy has never had a team in the top 10 in that category during his 11 seasons as a head coach.
  • In an appearance on Etan Thomas’ “The Rematch,” Mark Cuban admits his worst move in 20 years of owning the Mavericks was letting Steve Nash leave in free agency, tweets Alex Kennedy of BasketballNews. “Not even close, it’s my biggest mistake ever,” Cuban said. “Nash hated me for a long time because of it. We’re good now.”

Hiatus Notes: Burke, Cuban, Seeding, Disney

ESPN and ABC NBA analyst Doris Burke is among many who have contracted COVID-19 since the season was suspended on March 11, with the veteran TV and radio voice detailing her battle against the illness, discussing the NBA’s return and more in an interview with Steve Serby of the New York Post.

“The thing that I felt the most was fatigue and headache,” Burke said about having coronavirus. “So for a good stretch of the first two weeks of that, I was just thinking I had a bad flu, because my symptoms were not aligning with what was being told were the main symptoms — the shortness of breath, the pressure on the chest — I didn’t have those scary symptoms. So for a good stretch of time, I didn’t think I had it. But then I finally decided to get tested.

“It took eight days to get the results, and by the time I had gotten the results of the test, I was starting to come out of it. Was I scared? I had some measure of anxiety. I was sleeping 16, 17 hours a day, and the other time I was not getting out of bed, so I wasn’t doing a whole lot.”

Burke tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of March, becoming one of the first publicly-known NBA figures to contract the virus. When asked about the challenges the NBA will face as it attempts to mount a comeback next month, she didn’t mince words.

“It’s a monster of a project to try to get right and put in place,” Burke said. “As I hear players talk about pre-existing conditions or talk about their fears, I absolutely understand it. And one of the things I thought most about is that a lot of these guys have young kids. You’re not only going down to the bubble, but at some point you’re going to leave that bubble, and what do you do as a player if you’re the parent of a young child? Do you go to a hotel when you get back to your respective market, and do you quarantine for two weeks and therefore stay away from your children longer to make sure, “OK, I’m not positive”?

“The primary thought I have as it relates to fear doesn’t necessarily have to do with myself, it has to do more with anybody who’s not been infected, had COVID, recovered and doesn’t have immunity, because I do worry. … As much as I know that the NBA is going to do absolutely everything in their power to make this environment as safe as possible, the fact of the matter is the ultimate bad outcome remains a possibility. There’s inherent risk that everybody who goes down to Orlando assumes, and how you work that out in your own mind is a very personal choice. And I don’t think we should criticize, judge or in any way, shape or form have negative feelings for those who express concern, because it’s legitimate and it’s real.”

Burke also offered her thoughts on several notable figures around the league in the interview, including Gregg Popovich, Mark Jackson and Zion Williamson.

Here are some other notes related to the NBA’s hiatus:

  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is advocating for the NBA to keep a permanent schedule change, as detailed by The Dallas Morning News. The league is settling on a late July restart with much of the typical offseason festivities set to happen in October, though next season’s schedule is largely unknown at this time.
  • The 88 total seeding games in Orlando will count toward the regular season statistics, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets. However, games as of March 11 will be used for any player that has bonuses in their contract.
  • Mark Medina of USA Today examines how Disney employees will work inside the NBA’s bubble when the league resumes in Orlando. The first games are set to commence during the final week of July, with the NBA under pressure to ensure that protocols are followed and safety is prioritized.

Restart Notes: NBPA Agreement, Facilities, Cuban, Long Shots

The NBA is close to reaching an agreement with the National Basketball Players Association on restarting the season, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said this morning on SportsCenter (video link). Despite concerns over COVID-19 rates in Florida, the bubble environment, injury risks and other issues, Windhorst called the plan “too big to fail” and said the “overwhelming majority” of players want to start playing again.

“They all admit there’s concerns. But they all admit this is the best they can do,” he said. “And they’re steeling themselves for the wave of potential positive tests back that are going to come in the next few days explaining it that we want to find out who’s sick so we can get them healthy so we can establish the bubble. Again, that is a rhetoric that may look silly in a few days or it may be reality, but we are headed towards at least a restart of training camp with agreement from the union very soon.”

Windhorst added that a deal with the NBPA could be announced “in the next 48 hours” and definitely by the end of the week.

There’s more as the restart draws closer:

  • The NBA will allow teams to have 10 coaches in their facilities beginning Tuesday, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Four players at a time will be permitted from June 23-30, then eight from July 1-9. Full training camps will begin once teams arrive in Orlando (Twitter link).
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tells Steve Serby of The New York Post that players will be safer in the bubble environment of Orlando than they would be in their respective cities. It’s part of a wide-ranging interview that also touches on Black Lives Matter, the challenges of playing in an empty arena, Dallas’ chances to make a playoff run, and the danger of injuries after a long layoff. “The four-month break since March 11 till the start of camp isn’t all that different than the end of the regular season to summer league or the midpoint of the playoffs to the start of training camp,” Cuban said. “So I don’t expect any difference on the injury front than a traditional start of season. Plus our training and medical staffs are going to be hyper-vigilant for obvious reasons. So I think we will all err on the side of caution when it comes to player health.”
  • Ethan Strauss of The Athletic picks the Thunder, Nuggets, Raptors and Rockets as the best long-shot bets to win the NBA title.

Hiatus Notes: Cuban, Paul, Season, EuroLeague

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is the latest NBA figure to discuss why the league should consider starting the regular season on Christmas Day, as he explained on ESPN’s The Jump with Rachel Nichols (Twitter link).

The current NBA season begins in mid-October and ends with the NBA Finals concluding in early June. The NBA draft happens shortly after that, with free agency commencing at the end of June and early July.

“I think you work backwards from next season,” Cuban said after being asked when he believes the league should release its official plans for the season. “I’ve always been a proponent of starting on Christmas Day when we go to broadcast. And so if you work backwards from there and say, ‘We want to have two months off for the draft and everything, for players to recover’, so you have all of November and all of October and we don’t have to finish (this season) until the end of September.”

If the league chooses to work backwards from next season and finish this campaign in September, the 2020/21 season likely won’t start until December. This could open a pathway toward a brand new schedule, so long as the league can overcome some of the various obstacles it will likely encounter.

Cuban also gave his opinion on whether we’ll see a traditional 16-team playoff format this year, which includes eight teams from the East and West.

“I don’t think it’ll be regular,” he said of this year’s format. “This is our chance to experiment and learn. Unique circumstances, unique opportunities. So I’m confident we’ll take advantage of it and do something differently. I just think that’s smart from a business perspective and I think the players want that too.”

Here are a few more items related to the NBA’s hiatus:

  • Royce Young of ESPN details the role Thunder guard Chris Paul has played during the coronavirus pandemic, with Paul currently serving as president of the players’ union. The NBA season has been on hiatus for roughly two-and-a-half months to date.
  • Steve Popper of Newsday makes the case for why only 16 teams should play in the event the NBA season is resumed. The league is planning a Thursday vote between the Board of Governors on how and whether to restart the season, with owners expected to approve a plan, according to an ESPN report.
  • Alberto De Roa of HoopsHype discussed the EuroLeague’s decision to cancel the season and more with veteran forward Bostjan Nachbar, who believes the biggest fear from EuroLeague players was related to injuries following the long layoff — not COVID-19. Nachbar plays a key role in the EuroLeague Players Association, which was recently created to represent players across the league.

Mark Cuban Shares Proposal For Return To Play

As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski detailed earlier today, the format for the NBA’s potential return to play this summer is a topic of much debate within the league right now. Teams at the top of the standings will have different motivations than bottom-feeding clubs or those on the fringes of playoff contention, leading to disagreement over which format would make the most sense for the league as a whole.

On Monday, we discussed the possibility of the NBA re-seeding playoff teams, regardless of conference, for its 2020 playoffs. Earlier today, we explored the idea of what a World Cup-style play-in pool would look like in place of the usual first round. Now, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has shared his own proposal with ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

Cuban would like to see all 30 teams return to action and play approximately five to seven regular season games, as MacMahon relays. Once those games were completed, these steps would follow:

  • The top 10 teams from each conference would make the playoffs.
  • Those teams would be re-seeded from 1 through 20 based on regular season record.
  • The Nos. 17 and 20 teams and the Nos. 18 and 19 teams would face one another in a pair of single-elimination or best-of-three matchups.
  • The winners of those matchups would advance to face the Nos. 15 and 16 teams for the final two spots in the playoff bracket.
  • The postseason would proceed with its usual best-of-seven format from there, using 1-16 seeding rather than an East/West divide.

Cuban pointed out that such a format would give every team except the Warriors and Timberwolves a chance to qualify for at least the play-in tournament. Assuming safety and scheduling concerns didn’t get in the way, bringing every team back and playing several regular season games would also help out the league financially, allowing a number of clubs to fulfill their local TV deals, tweets MacMahon.

Cuban, who referred to his proposal as “fair” and “entertaining,” expressed concern about the play-in pool format that has been discussed by the NBA, according to MacMahon. The Mavericks owner argued that the group-stage concept “throws away the value of the whole season.”

Of course, it’s worth noting that Cuban’s proposal would benefit the Mavs. They currently hold the NBA’s 13th-best record and – given their current cushion – would have no chance of slipping to 15th and being part of his proposed play-in tournament. If the NBA used another form of play-in tournament, putting the seventh and eighth seeds in each conference up for grabs without playing any regular season games first, Dallas would be at risk of losing the No. 7 spot in the West.