Contract disputes are about money. The person seeking the contract always wants more than the person handing out the contract wants to give.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and coach Rick Carlisle might not yet describe this lingering contract situation as a dispute, but the bottom line is that Carlisle has yet to ink a new deal. Neither side is talking about it, so it can only be assumed that money is a central issue.
Carlisle earned $4.5 million in the fourth and final year of his contract this past season. That ranked him seventh at the start of the season, according to Forbes, among the league's highest-paid coaches. Three of the top six on the list didn't make it out of the season. Mike D'Antonio ($6 million, tied with San Antonio's Gregg Popovich for second) resigned from the New York Knicks, Nate McMillan ($5.5 million, fourth) was fired by the Portland Trail Blazers and Flip Saunders ($4.8 million, sixth) was fired by the Washington Wizards.
According to Forbes, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers is the highest-paid coach in the NBA, earning $7 million this season. He's in his 13th season as a head coach and eighth with the Celtics, who hold a 1-0 lead on the Philadelphia 76ers in the East semifinals. Rivers and the Celtics won the 2008 championship and returned to the Finals in 2010, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.
Is Carlisle looking for Rivers-type money? Or perhaps the $6 million that Popovich, a four-time championship coach, is pocketing this season? The NBA's Coach of the Year has the Spurs in the West semifinals on the heels of a first-round sweep.
In Carlisle's third season in Dallas, he molded a group of title-less veterans into unexpected champions, providing Cuban and the franchise with its first title. While the Miami Heat, the team the Mavs dispatched in the NBA Finals in six games, rewarded coach Erik Spoelstra with an extension in December prior to the start of the season, Carlisle's reward never came.
Cuban dismantled the title team and the season was a struggle from start to finish. Dallas ended it 36-30 in the regular season and then was swept out of the first round by the Oklahoma City Thunder under coach Scott Brooks, who is also coming to the end of his contract and will command a bigger payday.
Cuban claims it's simply not his business style to grant extensions (the 2006 extension he gave Avery Johnson backfired). But now that the season is over and still no deal exists, it figures that either the two sides are negotiating a workable salary or that Carlisle, who would be a hot commodity as a free agent, is keeping his options open.
After all, the Mavs' future, in terms of its roster as Dirk Nowitzki turns 34 in June, is as unsettled as ever in Cuban's dozen years as owner.