Smiling Mark Cuban: 'I am a bully'

DALLAS -- Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, the faces of a rather fierce front-office rivalry between the two franchises, can agree on one thing.

“I am a bully,” Cuban said, smiling. “I just can’t help myself.”

Morey has had just about enough of Cuban’s public jabs, firing back in an interview with Yahoo! Sports. Cuban found many of Morey’s comments to be humorous, particularly the part about “directing his bully pulpit onto us” because the San Antonio Spurs aren’t an easy target.

Of course, Cuban has long been a villain in San Antonio, angering the entire city with by criticizing the uncleanliness of the River Walk during a playoff series several years ago.

“See, that’s Daryl, right?” Cuban said. “He doesn’t really have a concept of what’s really happened in life. I mean, anybody who’s walked by the river ... Let’s put it this way: I don’t go close to the river for fear I’ll be pushed in.”

This is the first time that Morey has publicly fired back directly at Cuban, who has been taking jabs at the Rockets for more than a year, dating to center Dwight Howard’s decision to go to Houston instead of Dallas in free agency. Cuban claims that Morey “kind of got it started” when he sent a text inquiring about Dirk Nowitzki’s availability in a trade after Howard’s decision, which Cuban took as a taunt. Cuban also didn’t appreciate Morey’s statement after Chandler Parsons’ departure to Dallas this summer that the Rockets would prefer to develop players of that caliber than sign them to rich contracts.

“I don’t know who (the Rockets) have developed that’s on his roster right now,” Cuban said. “If you throw the punches ... I just don’t think he realized he threw them, so I had some fun responding.”

Now, Morey and Cuban are arguing about how much two of the most analytically advanced front offices in the NBA value chemistry. That’s a debate Cuban started with repeated comments about making chemistry as much a priority as math, a thinly veiled shot at Morey.

Morey countered that Cuban must have found “chemistry religion recently,” noting that the Mavs broke up a championship team, a decision Cuban reminded was motivated by the new collective bargaining agreement. Morey also claimed that, if the money is the same, free agents will pick the Rockets over the Mavs.

“If you want to win, you’re going to join our organization,” Morey told Yahoo!

“I’m not sure how he would know that,” retorted Cuban, who enjoys reminding people that the Rockets have won only one playoff series since 1997.

For Morey, it’s out of character to publicly exchange such banter. For Cuban, it’s his comfort zone, but he insisted he has no personal animosity for his rivals in Houston.

“The only reason I’m even responding is because I respect and like Daryl, who’s smart,” Cuban said. “He’s got some Donald Trump in him where he doesn’t really understand media all that well, but he’s a smart guy and one of the smartest general managers in the league. So we can have some fun going back and forth.”

It seems to be much more fun for Cuban than Morey.