Zach Lowe of ESPN called Mavericks star Luka Doncic one of the NBA’s biggest whiners. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban responded: “F*** you, Zach Lowe. You don’t know s***” (then showed how Doncic begs for calls “all the time”… like a European player).
Doncic later acknowledged he was complaining too much.
The takeaway: Cuban will back Doncic (and has issues with stereotyping).
So, when Doncic said he didn’t understand the NBA holding play-in tournamens this year, Cuban leaped to his star’s defense.
Cuban, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:
“In hindsight, this approach was an enormous mistake,” Cuban told ESPN.
“The worst part of this approach is that it doubles the stress of the compressed schedule. 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 6 since the consequences, as Luka said, are enormous. So players are playing more games and more minutes in fewer days.”
“I get why the NBA is doing it,” Cuban said in a series of messages to ESPN. “But if we are going to be creative because of COVID, we should go straight up 1-20 and let the bottom 4 play in. This is the year particularly to do it since the 10 games cut [from the normal 82-game schedule] were in conference.
“In a regular season of 82 games where we aren’t playing 30-plus games in 6 weeks, then it might have been OK,” Cuban told ESPN. “But the compression of so many games into so few days makes this an enormous mistake. “If we had gone 1 to 16, with the top 12 in, it still would have been rough, but there would have been more separation between play-in and the top 12. This is a season where we have to rest high-usage players. We have no choice. And that can and will have consequences.”
Cuban voted to approve the play-in tournaments. He’ll collect his share of the revenue they produce.
But he should also have room to learn more about the situation and change his thinking. He’s not hiding that he’s speaking with the benefit of hindsight.
But the play-in tournaments give more teams more reason to care about winning regular-season games.
The product is already suffering this year from games being postponed, players missing games due to coronavirus (contact tracing and cases) and fans not being in arenas. The play-in tournament is a counter that increases the significance of regular-season games.
No longer is finishing top eight in the conference enough to make the playoffs. Teams must finish in the top six to be assured of the playoffs. Plus, teams within reach of ninth and 10th are still fighting for something.
This system is bad for these Mavericks, though.
Dallas is seventh in the West. In previous years, finishing seventh would have gotten a team into the playoffs. This year, the seventh-place team in each conference must advance through the play-in.
The Mavericks have the NBA’s 10th-best record. So, a system that puts the top teams – regardless of conference – into the playoffs would benefit Dallas.
But I fail to see how Cuban’s other plans would significantly reduce the overall stress on players. Teams would still be competing for the postseason with a distinctions between immediate playoff qualifiers, teams that must go through the play-in tournament and teams that don’t reach even the play-in.
His systems would just be easier on the Mavericks.