Mark Cuban thinks we all need to chill on anointing Lakers

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Mark Cuban is very, very good at promoting Mark Cuban and with that the Dallas Mavericks. In a marketing world where you increasingly need to be your own brand Cuban is way ahead of the curve.

And if there are rival brands to your Mavericks brand — say, the Los Angeles Lakers and their new additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard — then you downplay that brand and pump up yours.

With that background, we bring you Cuban’s comments about the Lakers and his own Mavericks during an amusing if not terribly informative “season ticket holders press conference” with the words transcribed by Sean Deveney of the Sporting News.

“The Lakers have done this before,” Cuban said. “Remember Gary Payton, Karl Malone and Kobe and Shaq were all together, and it didn’t work.

“It takes great chemistry, like coach (Rick Carlisle) alluded to, it takes guys wanting to be there — I don’t know if all their guys want to be there — it’s going to be interesting…

“Look, (the Lakers are) going to be a great team, but I remember when we made our run,” Cuban said. “We weren’t supposed to win any series. The Lakers were defending champs when we swept them, and they had everybody back. A lot of teams do a great job winning the summer, but I never get so antsy about what happens over the summer.”

It’s the “they are great on paper but…” argument everybody makes right now. Because, it’s really the only thing you can say about the Lakers until they do take the court. And he is right about the Mavericks run and things needing to come together. We just can’t say yet if the Lakers will or won’t (but with those veterans I think will is far more likely).

Then Cuban went on to praise the chemistry of the Mavericks, which have eight new players this season. That Dallas team has more talent than some seem to give it credit for — Darren Collison is a good point guard, O.J. Mayo can fill it up, Chris Kaman is solid and they still have that Dirk Nowitzki guy. He’s pretty good. Dallas is a playoff team and will push for another 50-win season, something they have done every year since Steve Nash frosted his hair and played in Big D.

But the Lakers are going to be better.

One other note to Mavs fans after having watched the stream of that press conference: You guys get the coverage you deserve. There was a whole lot of “the media hates us/we don’t get any respect,” which frankly 29 other fan bases complain about, too. Heat fans complain about it. But here’s the truth — today’s media is a democracy where you vote with your eyeballs and clicks. If enough people were clicking on Mavs stories there would be more of them on this blog and others (and we still do a lot), but the fact is you all have voted with those clicks and you like Heat/Lakers/Knicks/Celtics stories a lot more. This is not the 1960s where Walter Cronkite could claim objectivity because the news division was expected to lose money. Today the media is part of the capitalist culture created by people like Cuban (he gets it, watch what he puts on HDNet). It’s about profit. I like to think we can do that with some even handedness (even though plenty of you don’t see it that way with me) and smart commentary on all the teams, but the bottom line doesn’t change. This blog is a business, too. Which is to say, if you want more Mavericks stories, then click on and read more Mavericks stories.

Rumor: Raptors trying to trade up in draft for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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The Raptors have major problems in the playoffs annually.

Is a coaching change enough to fix them?

Toronto already fired Dwane Casey and promoted assistant Nick Nurse after a highly successful regular season. Perhaps, major roster turnover could follow.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander projects to be a late lottery pick. The Raptors have no selections in this draft. So, acquiring one high enough to pick the Kentucky point guard would take plenty.

Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are stars. Toronto’s bench is stocked with solid young players. O.G. Anunoby is very promising.

So, the Raptors have pieces to move. The only question how much they’d package for a draft pick.

Toronto already has Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright at point guard. But Lowry is 32, and VanVleet will be a restricted free agent this summer. If they really believe in Gilgeous-Alexander, the Raptors should try to get him.

All that said, this is the time of year rumors – both credible and not – fly. So, it’s worth remaining skeptical while still considering the validity of what reputable reporters like Stein convey.

Luka Doncic, Donte DiVincenzo, Jerome Robinson among NBA draft invitees

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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Of course DeAndre Ayton will attend Thursday’s NBA draft. The Suns will likely draft him No. 1 overall.

But what about more marginal first-round prospects?

The NBA’s draft invite list is an important tool in judging their stock. The league wants to avoid players sitting in agony until their names are called. So, the NBA works to invite only the prospects most likely to get picked high in the draft.

The full list of invited players (which the league notes is subject to change):

Luka Doncic will go high in the draft, and though how high is still uncertain, his inclusion on this list says nothing about his stock. It just speaks to whether we’ll see him Thursday night. His attendance will depend at least on when Real Madrid’s season ends, though the NBA is apparently confident enough to list him.

Jerome Robinson has climbed draft boards since the season ended. He must be impressing in workouts and interviews.

Donte DiVincenzo is a bit of a surprise selection, as he’s not widely viewed as a first-round lock. Perhaps, the league is looking to capitalize on his popularity stemming from a breakout NCAA tournament championship game.

This will only reinforce the idea Chandler Hutchinson received a promise. Otherwise, he’s a surprise invitee.

Among the top players not attending: Kevin Huerter (Maryland), Jacob Evans (Cincinnati), Troy Brown (Oregon) and Josh Okogie (Georgia Tech). Though they could go higher than players listed here, that says something about Huerter’s Evans’, Browns’ and Okogie’s stock, too.

Report: Rudy Gay opting out of Spurs contract

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Kawhi Leonard reportedly wants to leave the Spurs, but he’s at their whims.

This doesn’t mean Rudy Gay will depart San Antonio, but he’s taking control of his future.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Gay’s option-year salary was $8,826,300.

I doubt Gay, who turns 32 this summer, will draw such a high starting salary on his next contract – though I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. He could likely get a multi-year deal with a higher total value.

Or he could chase a ring elsewhere.

Remember, Gay gave up money to leave the Kings last summer. No matter how much the Leonard situation should make us rethink the Spurs’ culture, San Antonio probably isn’t “basketball hell.” Still, the Spurs clearly don’t look as appealing as they once did, and Gay has shown how much he values team quality.

Gay is coming off a nice season, and San Antonio might try to re-sign him. Danny Green has a $10 million player option for next season, which will swing whether the Spurs have the flexibility for a bigger move this summer.

Report: LeBron James’ camp likes Collin Sexton

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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In 2014, LeBron James tweeted his fondness for Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier. The Heat traded up to get Napier in the draft, but LeBron left for the Cavaliers that summer, anyway.

Could history repeat itself, this time in Cleveland?

LeBron has already talked up Oklahoma point guard Trae Young, but maybe LeBron and his camp want the Cavs to take a different point guard – Alabama’s Collin Sexton – with the No. 8 pick.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, via Jordan Zirm of ESPN Cleveland:

The Cavaliers should take the best prospect available. Worrying about what LeBron might want makes a mistake only more likely.

LeBron might stay in Cleveland, but as 2014 showed, it won’t be because of a draft pick. If he stays, it very well could be by opting into the final year of his contract. His player-option salary ($35,607,968) is slightly higher than his projected max salary as a free agent (about $35.35 million). If LeBron opts in, the best chance of keeping him long-term is building a better team around him.

That means taking the best prospect at No. 8 or trading the pick for someone who can help LeBron win now. If the top prospect is Sexton, that’s fine. But the Cavs are fare more likely to appease LeBron by getting the pick right in the long run rather than choosing the prospect he wants now.