Mark Cuban, Dirk Nowitzki

Mark Cuban calls championship argument for validating players ‘the stupid, macho element’ of sports


If you’re a passionate NBA fan who likes to discuss the game with others, then invariably you’ve heard (but hopefully not given) this response when comparing one player’s impact to that of another.

“Oh yeah? Who has more championships?”

It’s become known mockingly as the “COUNT DA RINGZ” defense, used most often when comparing the skills of say, Kobe Bryant (who has five of them) to those of somebody else.

It’s ridiculous to a point, because there are so many more factors that go into winning championships in any professional sport, and especially in basketball, where the best teams usually require a minimum of two, but sometimes three or four superstar-level performances over the course of a postseason to accomplish that ultimate goal.

Mark Cuban, being one of the most involved owners the NBA has, knows this perhaps better than anyone.

The Mavericks have had Dirk Nowitzki playing at the level of the league’s elite for the majority of his 14 seasons in Dallas, but he was never recognized to be as great as he was by many thanks to the ring being the thing as far as most fans are concerned.

Cuban answered questions on Reddit on Monday, and this was one that came up. He delivered the following thoughtful response (sic, via USA Today):

Question: Why do basketball players only get recognition after they’ve been a part of a championship team? For instance, Dirk has been an amazing player for 10 years now, but only got the respect he truly deserved from fans after having a championship caliber supporting cast (Including coaches) around him. If it’s a team game, why do players only get appreciated after they accomplish something that’s mostly out of their control (Since, most of the time, they don’t decide who they get to play with)?

Cuban: Thats the stupid , macho element of all professional sports. Its a lot easier to just pin a lable on someone than to actually do the work to determine the impact of a player. ITs the same reason everyone over values scoring in the NBA. Scoring is usually the easiest part of the game.

Laser-accurate response from Cuban, there.

Nowitzki is one of the greatest players of his era — as much for his unique skill set given his seven-foot tall frame, as well as for how much he’s proven to be capable of dominating over the years.

Thankfully, he got his championship ring with an incredible postseason run in 2011, so those more casual fans officially don’t have this silly argument to use when trying to diminish Nowitzki’s career in a poor attempt to compare All-Star talent.

But it shouldn’t ever come to that, at least from an intelligent fan of the game. And Cuban recognizes that.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
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Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.