Cuban says Heat as villains is good for NBA business

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The Miami Heat are polarizing. People love them or hate them. Detractors see an arrogant team that doesn’t maximize itself but just enough to win. Then there is LeBron James, who evokes the same love him or leave him emotions. Few fans inhabit the middle ground with Miami.

But the bottom line is everyone tunes in to watch them. Television ratings go up when they are on the screen.

Which makes the polarizing Heat good business for the NBA, something marketing master Mark Cuban gets. He’s taken his shots at the Heat before but in speaking with Jeff Caplan of NBA.com Cuban clearly understands what is helping line his pocket. And Cuban likes things that line his pocket.

“With the two titles, they’re still like the bad guys,” Cuban said. “There’s a confidence bordering on arrogance that is good for them as a team and good for us as a league because it also makes them the team that everybody wants to knock off.

“They’re kind of in some respects the Oakland Raiders … when they were winning. I don’t want to compare [Heat owner] Mickey [Arison] to Al Davis, that’s not fair, but you either love them or hate them. That’s always good for the NBA when you have a team that everybody looks forward to beating. It’s just like when we beat them, I would go in places I’ve never been and people would give me a standing ovation. That’s good for the NBA.”

When the Raiders were winning? Damn that’s back when NWA was still together I think; that’s a long, long time ago. Also, Micky Arison, do not wear white jump suits, please.

Cuban is right. Parity works selling the NFL, but even there fans get pumped up to see if their team can knock off the Patriots — you want a shot at the consistently good, arrogant team with the pretty boy quarterback. I think the NBA is always more interesting when there is a dominant team to shoot for — the Bulls in the 1990s, the Lakers/Celtics in the 1980s and so on.

Right now, the Heat are the team on top of the mountain, and this may well be the season some team knocks them off that perch. But it’s more fun to have that target; it’s much better than having a champion that gets dismantled within a couple years of winning it all… we’re looking at you, Cuban.

Watch Michael Jordan’s best highlight from each of his playoff runs (video)

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I’ve become a sucker for this highlight format.

Jazz deny rumored promise to draft D.J. Wilson

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Michigan forward D.J. Wilson said he’d stay in the draft only if he’d go in the first round. Yet, despite not doing any on-court work at the combine, the borderline first-rounder remained in the draft beyond the withdrawal deadline.

What gives?

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

Kyle Goon of The Salt Lake Tribune:

NBA teams sometimes promise to draft a player. They never reveal that before the draft. So, Utah’s denial doesn’t mean much – even if it’s true.

The Jazz were the last team to give Wilson a full work out before he injured himself in a Spurs workout. So, this rumor could be based on circumstantial evidence rather than leak of a Utah guarantee.

Wilson would make sense for the Jazz, who could see their payroll bloat if they re-sign Gordon Hayward and George Hill (and maybe even Joe Ingles). They could move Derrick Favors, an interior who doesn’t exactly fit with Rudy Gobert. Wilson would give Utah another option with Trey Lyles as developing stretch fours behind Boris Diaw. (Utah could even move Diaw and count on Lyles/Wilson to emerge sooner than later.)

Watch LeBron James’ top highlight from each of his postseason appearances (video)

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LeBron James and Tony Parker are the only players to play in the last dozen postseasons.

(If you’re wondering, Manu Ginobili missed the 2009 playoffs due to an ankle injury.)

It’s fair to say LeBron was a bit more spectacular than Parker in that span. As LeBron enters his seventh straight Finals, the NBA released this awesome video showing LeBron’s best playoff highlight from each year:

There’s no entry for this year. Here’s betting it comes against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

David Stern: We thought we could re-work Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade until Mitch Kupchak ‘panicked’

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NBA commissioner David Stern – acting as New Orleans’ owner representative, he says – infamously vetoed a potential Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade in 2011.

But that didn’t close the possibility of Paul going to the Lakers.

The New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans and not be confused with the current Charlotte Hornets), Lakers and Rockets tried to rework the three-team trade that would’ve sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to New Orleans. But talks fell apart around the time the Lakers dealt Odom to the Mavericks.

Stern on Nunyo & Company (hat tip: Harrison Feigen of Silver Screen & Roll):

In fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kevin Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick – not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.

Remember, Stern – roundly criticized for his handling of this episode* – has blamed the Lakers and Rockets for the lingering perception. This could just be him again trying to shift responsibility.

*Somewhat fairly, somewhat not. Owners veto general manager-approved trades often enough, and Stern was acting as New Orleans’ owner after George Shinn sold the franchise back to the league. But Stern had an agenda as commissioner. He never should have assumed such a large conflict of interest. What he did with the Paul trade was reasonable for an acting owner, but because Stern was also commissioner, it’s fair to question how much New Orleans’ interests and how much the league’s interests factored into the decision-making.

But let’s take Stern at his word – that he and the Hornets thought they could re-do the trade and send Paul to the Lakers. That doesn’t mean they were right. Maybe the Lakers and Rockets (who had Kyle Lowry, not the “Kevin Lowry” Stern named) were never going to part with enough to get Stern’s approval.

And maybe New Orleans didn’t properly convey its interest in still completing a deal. Perhaps, Kupchak acted reasonably by trading Odom to Dallas – for a first-round pick, a deal Mark Cuban would ultimately regret – rather than wait around for the Hornets, who eventually sent Paul to the Clippers.

It’s easy to blame Kupchak, but he might tell a different story.