Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, always an interesting interview, hit a bunch of basketball topics during an hour-long podcast with Grantland.com’s Zach Lowe.
Some highlights of Cuban’s Lowe Post appearance, which can be heard in its entirety here:
On if the Mavs would have actually tanked: “Tank is all relative, right? Because in the Western Conference, you can really play hard and do your best and still be in the lottery. So the whole concept was, if we didn’t get Wes [Matthews], if we didn’t get a key free agent and D-Will [Deron Williams] in this particular case among others, what would have been the best strategy for us? If you would have asked me last year, I would have said you do whatever you can to make the playoffs no matter what, and that’s the path we’re on now. But had we not gotten these two key guys, I had looked at it and there were fewer teams that were bad. And when there’s fewer teams that are bad, it means you can still strive forward and try to do well and still not win as many games and still be in the hunt for one of those top draft picks. I guess metaphorically speaking, yeah, we would have tanked, but in reality, it would have been a completely different approach than the teams that have been vying for top picks have been doing. It would not have been a race to the bottom.”
On whether Mavs have placed enough emphasis on the draft: “When you’re in a win-it-now [mode], it’s a totally different perspective. You know, do I want DeShawn Stevenson on my roster or do I want the 25th pick in the draft? DeShawn helped us win a championship. In every other sense of the word, he’s a role player. It just depends on where you are in your life cycle. Do I want to save that roster [spot] for a second-round pick I’m going to develop or do I want Peja Stojakovic hitting six 3s against the Lakers in the playoffs? There’s the uncertainty. You can win the summer and lose the fall. When you know an NBA player, it’s just a risk-reward decision. We’ve done that plenty of times. Or when we have complete uncertainty, then we’ll trade down until we find somebody where the risk meets the reward.”
On Wesley Matthews reversing the trend and making a full recovery from a torn Achilles tendon: “There’s not a lot of recent guys, either. You’re going back to the ‘90s or the early 2000s, which was a completely different medical environment. … We have doctors. You have doctors and they look at it and you look at the medical science and you look at our rehab techniques and you look at the things we have in place, and you say, ‘Can he recover?’ The answer we though was obviously, yes. … He can do what he can do. If you bring that to the table, and obviously we think that he can recover. If not, then we’ve got the new Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady combination. No, but we obviously have confidence that it’ll work out. According to everything that we’re hearing through the summer so far, everything’s good.”
On lessons learned from the disastrous Lamar Odom and Rajon Rondo deals: “It just means that not everything is going to work. What do you do, run away from risk going forward? We had other players that didn’t work. We’ve had other players that were higher risk that did work. Jason Terry, everybody told us that we were an idiot. Jerry Stackhouse, they couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. I could go through names. Monta. There’s guys that everybody – whether it was from analytics, whether it was from personnel problems or personal problems or other issues or off-the-court issues, whatever it was, there were a number of risks that we took that have worked. Lamar really didn’t have any things in advance that signaled that he was going to be a problem. That was a total shock. Rajon, it just wasn’t a fit. It wasn’t like personality, he was a bad guy. I like Rajon. I think he’s a good guy. We keep in touch. I wish him the best in Sacramento except when he plays us. I like the guy. I got along well with him. It just wasn’t a basketball fit. We debated that off and on. We debated it continuously, but we just felt that if we didn’t improve defensively at the point guard position that we weren’t going to get past the first round no matter what. And so that’s why we took the risk.”
On whether everyone was on board with the Rondo deal by the time the Mavs made the trade: “Everybody went back and forth 100 times. There was no 100 percent, yeah, let’s all go do it. Everybody changed their mind 50 times. At the end, it really came down to a coin flip more than anything else. And the coin flip was as much about, is there going to be anything else that we could do? Because we knew we had to do something. But that’s the way it all worked out, and what’s done is done. No hard feelings. He has his approach to basketball. Look, where I give him credit, he came as a 29 percent free throw shooter and left as a 77 percent free throw shooter because he put the work in. I would bet every penny I had to bet against him shooting 3s, and by the end, working with our guys, he ended up shooting 35 percent I think from 3s and actually was somewhat consistent at the end. There were other reasons why it didn’t work, but one of the reasons it almost could have worked is because he was a hard worker. He really did put in the time to make it work.”