Cuban: Dirk knows I've got his back

Mark Cuban says he tries to make sure his jabs are taken in a way that shows he's being supportive. AP Photo/LM Otero

What was the point of Mark Cuban’s public criticism of Dirk Nowitzki’s recent energy and effort on defense earlier this week?

“I needed to jab him a little bit,” Cuban said during a Thursday appearance on ESPN LA 710’s Max and Marcellus Show. “I mean, I said it to his face before I said it to the media. Look, Dirk knows that I’ve got his back on everything, on the court and off. We’ve been doing this together for 14 years. Like I told him before, I said, ‘I’m allowed to mess with you every five or 10 years.’

“He texted me and we talked and it’s over. We’ve got that kind of relationship. And there’s other guys I’ve taken little jabs at, but you do it to guys that you know will take it the right way. I try to make it in a manner that shows that I’m being supportive. I certainly love Dirk.

“Because the next question they asked was, ‘Would you ever trade Dirk?’ And the answer was absolutely not.”

Quick note: That question wasn’t actually asked. The beat writers in attendance during Cuban’s unprompted call-out of his superstar are well aware that Nowitzki has a no-trade clause and has verbally committed to re-sign with the Mavs for a to-be-negotiated reduced salary this summer.

Nowitzki didn’t seem thrilled when informed of Cuban’s comments, but he gave a politically correct response, saying he’s got to compete and help set the tone for the Mavs. He apparently expressed his feelings about the comments in private to Cuban, with whom he has a strong relationship that is essentially a partnership.

“So it’s not like we have problems or it’s an issue,” Cuban continued. “It’s just that every now and then, it’s a long season and guys need something to perk them up a little bit. It’s something that if I have a good relationship with them, I’ll do it.”

In this case, Nowitzki might dispute whether he needs any public perking up from his boss, but the big German isn’t going to make that case via the media.