Dirk Nowitzki likes the quiet Mark Cuban

DALLAS -- There has been a partnership between Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki for more than a decade. That’s the primary reason the Mavs’ superstar committed to four more years in Dallas after a long meeting at the owner’s mansion over the summer.

It sure is nice for Nowitzki when Cuban is a silent partner, though.

"It should be about the players, never about the owner," Nowitzki said after Wednesday’s practice. "We played a great series and fought hard and battled. That was fun. I haven’t really seen Mark since then, and that’s probably a good thing."

The media didn’t hear much from Cuban throughout the Mavs’ sweep of the Lakers, a surprise considering Cuban’s outspoken nature and previous wars of words with L.A. coach Phil Jackson and small forward Ron Artest. Cuban acknowledged that he made a concerted effort to avoid the spotlight during the series and indicated that’s his plan for the remainder of the playoffs.

"We believe," was all Cuban had to say when a couple of us waited him out in the Mavs’ locker room after the Game 4 rout.

After the 2006 Finals, when Cuban got slapped with a $250,000 fine for an anti-referee rant, Nowitzki strongly suggested that the owner’s controversial comments often work against the Mavs. But their relationship has always been close and has gotten tighter in recent years, in part because of Cuban’s role helping Dirk deal with the highly publicized personal problems that popped up during the 2008 playoffs.

Cuban has mellowed throughout the years, although Nowitzki attributes that more to the billionaire becoming a family man with obligations to his wife and three children. Cuban no longer makes every road trip. He rarely attends practices. He even occasionally misses home games, such as during his annual family vacation over the Christmas holidays.

And Cuban has steadily been much more careful with his comments criticizing the officiating, both to the media and directly to refs during games. "He picks his spots better," Nowitzki said. The fine totals have dropped drastically as a result in recent years, and the NBA even let Cuban get away without paying for pointing out a couple of calls he deemed incorrect in the Mavs’ last playoff loss, the Game 4 collapse in Portland that seems so long ago.

It is different for Cuban to go out of his way to avoid the spotlight, but one thing will never change about him.

"He still gets fired up during games," Nowitzki said. "He’s still a huge fan. Once the ball goes up, he’ s still in it with his heart."