Mark Cuban talks in some detail about Mavericks’ decisions, past and present

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Mark Cuban can be as guarded as anyone in interviews — he sets the company line, but the NBA can be a place where details are few and far between from the mouths of cautious exeutives.

Flying in the face of that, Cuban took to his personal blog Saturday with a 3,300 word missive, talking about the Mavericks decision making past and present. He’s letting fans in on his thinking, and that’s a good thing — a certain level of communication and honesty helps build fan loyalty (just don’t undercut your trading/negotiating positions).

You should go read the entire thing, this is just the top of the iceberg, but here are some highlights.

Let’s go back to the lockout season — the Mavericks were defending NBA champions thanks to a veteran squad that came together at the right time, but Cuban decided not to get the band back together for another run. He talked about that decision.

But what we have not discussed publicly was our concern of bringing back an older team in a shortened season. We basically saw the 2011-12 season as a throw away no matter who we signed. With out the time to prepare and get their bodies ready, throwing a team with an older starting lineup right into the fire was going to be tough. Young guys can walk into an NBA game any day of the year. Get to your mid 30s, not so much. So to bring the gang back, we would basically be losing a year. When you look at keeping together an older team and the first year after your championship is a lost year, it’s hard to justify keeping an older team together. But we were the champs. That meant a lot…

So we made the decision to stick with the folks we had under contract for the lockout season. We made a trade that we would thought would help, but obviously turned into a disaster. The good news was that it was a compressed season and we thought it would go by quickly and after the season we would have cap room to go after players we thought would be impact players and also fit our culture.

The trade being referenced was for Lamar Odom. Disaster is an accurate word. Odom completely fell apart and with it the Mavericks reboot never got going in any way.

Cuban next goes on to reiterate he will not trade Dirk Nowitzki — not now, not ever. He says that Nowitzki is at the cure of the culture he wants the Mavericks to have – hard working, selfless, professional. These are things Cuban has said before, but he was direct about it.

He also addressed going after Dwight Howard this year (putting up the video he displayed to entice him).

Let me address here the inevitable question of Dwight vs Mavs culture. We saw it as somewhat of a risk, but felt like because Dwight by all appearances and checking we did, is a good guy and with our support systems we believed we could make it work. If not, he was obviously a very trade-able asset. But, as everyone knows, we didn’t sign him. He went to the Rockets. I do have to say the meeting with Dwight was very interesting. He is a smart guy. Much smarter than people give him credit for…

Would i do it the same way again ? In a heartbeat. Why ? Because in the NBA, like in the non-sports business world you have to take chances in order to be rewarded. You have to be smart and you have to be more than a little lucky.

Then Cuban goes on to why he doesn’t believe in tanking, and why the Mavericks are not going to blow the roster up and go “woeful for Wiggins” — something a number of NBA teams are doing. They call it the Oklahoma City method, where you are bad for a few years in a row and keep drafting talent, even if that method involves a lot of luck to go with drafting skill.

What I do know, at least what I think i have learned from my experiences in business is that when there is a rush for everyone to do the same thing, it becomes more difficult to do . Not easier. Harder. It also means that as other teams follow their lead, it creates opportunities for those who have followed a different path.

I see quite a few teams taking what appears to be the same approach to building a team. I can understand why they are taking this approach. In the current CBA the value of a player chosen in the draft can be considerable because of the defined contract terms. And if you put together some great young players, it is very enticing to want to keep those players together for a long period.

But I also know that even if you have the worst record in the NBA, you may not get the top pick and even if you do, there is a material chance you pick the wrong player, or it just happens to be a draft when there are not any IDENTIFIABLE superstar potential players at the top of the draft. In other words, while it may be popular i think the quantity of teams taking the same approach makes it more difficult to build a team in this manner.

Cuban is right about the risks and difficulty of this approach — like an executive said to me in Las Vegas at Summer League, it was much easier for the Thunder to use this approach when they were the only one.

Going forward, Cuban is positive about the Mavericks this year, which is his norm. But with a healthy Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon plus some solid role players they could well be a playoff team in the West (not top five, but in the mix). Then you head into next summer with Nowitzki taking a pay cut (as he said he would), Shawn Marion off the books and they can go after another big money player.

Players speak well of the Dallas organization now (a radical change from when Cuban took over the franchise) and eventually he is going to land one of these stars he is chasing. I may not be as high on his team as he is, there is no doubt he built a culture that will sustain winning, and that is an impressive feat.

Rumor: Next NBA season could begin in March

Wizards guard Bradley Beal and 76ers center Joel Embiid
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The NBA could reportedly delay the start of next season – currently planned for Dec. 1 – if fan attendance becomes foreseeable.

How long would the league wait?

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

one plan includes starting in March if the NBA feels they can get fans in the arena by then, as well as not lose personnel and viewership to the Summer Olympics.

I understand the temptation to delay. The coronavirus pandemic has made it more difficult for NBA teams to turn a profit.

But this plan would invite all sorts of complications:

  • What if there’s no vaccine, cure or comparable solution by March? Then, the league would have wasted months getting practically no revenue – rather than reduced revenue – without reaching a more favorable point. (However, maybe owners could also reduce costs with a lockout.)
  • Starting the season in March would radically alter the NBA’s calendar. Shifting back to an October – or even December – start date would mean even more upheaval, potentially for several years.
  • The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled for July and August 2021. The Olympics have been a powerful tool for the NBA and its players expanding their global reach.

These are unique and trying circumstances. Coronavirus is a massive and confounding variable. Everything should be on the table.

Do I predict next season will begin in March? No. But apparently the possibility is being considered, which is something.

Magic center Mo Bamba had coronavirus

Magic center Mo Bamba
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Mo Bamba has fallen behind Khem Birch as the Magic’s backup center (to Nikola Vucevic). At the NBA’ resumption at Disney World, Bamba has played in only two of Orlando’s four games, receiving just four and six minutes. Magic coach Steve Clifford cited the 22-year-old’s conditioning.

Bamba wants you to know the full story: He had coronavirus.

Josh Robbins of The Athletic:

Bamba received word of his positive test on June 11

The illness temporarily robbed him of his senses of smell and taste, made him unusually fatigued and caused muscle soreness.

“Part of me is reading the temperature of the room and just knowing that there are definitely going to be questions, and sometimes you’ve just got to address them with honesty,” Bamba said. “In this case, I think it’s best for them to have that context and have that understanding of what, exactly, is going on.

“I want people to know that I’m still working as hard as ever, if not even harder, and I’ll get through this.”

Bamba thought he had endured the worst by the time the Magic entered the NBA bubble on July 7. But the false positives required him to have an additional three-day in-room quarantine while his teammates practiced together on July 9, July 10 and July 11.

I appreciate Bamba being so forthcoming. It was easy for people to suspect he didn’t train properly during the hiatus. Though medical privacy should also be valued, transparency often alleviates the worst suspicions.

At least 54 NBA players have tested positive for coronavirus. Does that number already include Bamba? It’s unclear.

After going quiet during most of the shutdown, the league has announced the number of players who’ve tested positive since June 23. Maybe Bamba continued to test positive on June 23 or later. Or perhaps he’s an additional case from the quiet period. There definitely were some cases in that timeframe.

False positives are an issue – an unavoidable one. It’s unfair Bamba was stuck in his hotel room, not training, longer than necessary. But the NBA can’t risk allowing a potentially contagious player into the bubble. Better to err on the side of safety.

The No. 6 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, Bamba improved steadily from an underwhelming rookie season. He still needs more work to become a quality NBA player. This is a setback, and one that makes him unlikely to contribute much the rest of this season. Hopefully, he’ll be able to pick up next season where he left off when this season got suspended.

Three Things to Know: What’s next for 76ers without Ben Simmons?

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack — especially with games spread out every day in the bubble — so every weekday during the NBA restart we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) What’s next for 76ers without Ben Simmons?

“This one stings, for sure.”

That was 76ers coach Brett Brown, who has had to deal with a lot of injuries to players during his tenure in Philadelphia. But this one hurts a little more because of the timing. The Sixers will be without Ben Simmons for a while after he suffered a subluxation of the left patella — his kneecap essentially dislocated then popped back into place — against Washington.

The 76ers were adjusting to playing Simmons at power forward during the restart in Orlando. Now there are just questions.

How long will Simmons be out? That’s the big one and the answer is nobody knows for sure. The Sixers are evaluating treatment options. As Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes notes, Allen Crabbe had the same injury earlier this year and missed 11 days (three games), but he had no damage to the ligaments or rest of the knee. That’s the most common outcome for this injury and it would have Simmons back around the start of the playoffs. However, if there is any ligament damage, Simmons could be out much longer. (The early reports were the MRI came back clean, but that doesn’t tell us much about the real level of damage other than it wasn’t severe.) Philadelphia has always been cautious when it comes to bringing its stars back from injury.

Who starts for Philadelphia while Simmons is out? That’s one Brown has to decide by today (Friday) and the game against Orlando. He could plug Al Horford back into the starting lineup — the Sixers were +1.4 points per 100 possessions this season with Embiid and Horford on the court together without Simmons (it was -0.7 with all three and the floor spacing was a mess). Or, Brown could keep Horford on the bench and go with another wing such as Matisse Thybulle or Furkan Korkmaz.

Philadelphia seems locked into the six seed in the East (they are one game back of five seed Indiana with four to play, but the Pacers beat the Sixers last Friday and have the tiebreaker, so it is in practice a two-game lead).

Philadelphia is 6-5 this season without Simmons, and while they can plug other players into the four they will not have Simmons’ elite defense, nor his passing skills, and the new player will not be the same threat in transition. Philadelphia is just not the same threat in the East without Simmons.

2) Portland is in control of ninth seed in West after win, New Orleans loss

There is going to be a play-in series in the West — and Portland is going to be in it.

That much seems obvious after Thursday’s action, where Jusuf Nurkic was dunking on Bol Bol and Portland was picking up a 125-115 win over Denver.

That win has Portland half a game back of  Memphis for the eighth seed in the West — and the 0-4 Grizzlies face a tough game against the Thunder Friday. The West could be tied by Saturday morning.

Portland looks to be a lock for the play-in.

Can anyone else crash that party? Sacramento earned it’s first win in the bubble on Thursday, knocking off Zion Williamson and New Orleans, meaning now both the Kings and Pelicans sit 2.5 games back of the Grizzlies with four to play. Both need to win out and hope Memphis continues losing to have a chance to get into a play-in with Portland.

The undefeated-in-the-bubble Suns and the Spurs both sit two games back of the Grizzlies and with a chance to make a play-in. Just as with the Kings/Pels, the Suns and Spurs essentially need to win out and count on the Grizzlies continued stumbles to have a chance.

Memphis controls its own destiny. But without Jaren Jackson Jr., and with Ja Morant struggling from three, a sharp turnaround is needed.

3) Milwaukee wraps up No. 1 seed in East

This was expected, but the Bucks made it dramatic. Miami led this game by 23 points in the first half, but both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton turned it on — both finished with 33 points each — and Milwaukee came back to get 130-116 win. With that, the Bucks officially wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the East.

While this is good for the Bucks — who now get an easy first-round playoff matchup against Brooklyn or Orlando — they know they will be judged on the playoffs. This is a Finals-or-bust team. And Milwaukee fans don’t want to think about the options for bust.

Milwaukee has eased into games in the NBA restart, not worrying about wins now and rather being healthy and firing on all cylinders when the games matter. They have that luxury with the lead they built up in the East, but they need to flip the switch eventually. As they did coming back on the Heat.

Kemba Walker was ‘very serious’ about Knicks at one point in free agency

Kemba Walker practice
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Kemba Walker is a New York guy — born in the Bronx and attended Rice High School in Harlem.

Now Walker admits he seriously considered going home during his 2019 free agency and playing for the Knicks, but their inability to land another star ultimately led him to look elsewhere. Walker went on The Ringer’s R2C2 podcast with Ryan Ruocco and CC Sabathia and was asked whether he considered coming home.

“To be honest, yes. Yes, very serious. Very… Before Boston actually came along, the Knicks was one of my top priorities, actually, because I was thinking they were gonna get another player, but it didn’t work out.”

You can hear Kemba Walker pause and carefully choose his words in talking about the Knicks and why he decided to choose Boston instead.

As for that other player, I’d bet the rent that’s Kevin Durant. The two-time Finals MVP had been linked to the Knicks for much of the season, but when KD ultimately surveyed his options — and got together with Kyrie Irving — they chose the better foundation of players and more stable culture of Brooklyn. No Durant going to New York, Waker started thinking Boston.

That another All-Star/All-NBA level player was drawn to the Knicks speaks to the lure of New York City — players want to play there. Elite players. But they want to win more, and the Knicks with Tom Thibodeau have to build a foundation and culture conducive to winning. Do that and the stars will come.