DALLAS -- Mark Cuban playfully ripped new New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov for the Russian billionaire's hands-off style of running his NBA team.
"He's a [expletive]," Cuban said Thursday evening, using a crude term considered an insult to one's manhood.
The Dallas Mavericks' outspoken owner, who made the quip while riding an exercise bike before his team's 102-89 win over the Nets, laughed and smiled while making eye contact with the handful of reporters around him after delivering the zinger. The comment was clearly made in jest, but Cuban did elaborate by calling out Prokhorov for not attending games on a regular basis.
The Nets' owner had his own zinger in response to Cuban.
"I think Mark has it wrong. I don't like cats," he said in a statement released by the team.
When Prokhorov does attend Nets games, he watches from the comfort of a suite. On the other hand, Cuban rarely misses a Mavericks game and always sits courtside, behind the Mavs' bench on the road and right next to it at American Airlines Center.
"Totally different," said Nets coach Avery Johnson, who spent more than three seasons as the Mavs' coach before Cuban fired him after the 2008 season. "[Prokhorov] sits in a suite, and I barely even see him sometimes after the games. But in a lot of ways they are the same, even though they're different."
Those similarities have yet to extend to the way the Nets' roster is constructed. Under Cuban, the Mavs annually have one of the NBA's highest payrolls and have made several splashy, financially burdensome trades to try to build a championship team.
Cuban said the expectations for Johnson in Dallas were to win a title, a goal the Mavs fell just short of by losing the 2006 Finals to the Miami Heat. That's not a realistic goal for the rebuilding, 6-17 Nets.
"I think he recognizes that his job is progress more than rings right now," Cuban said. "But you never know. If Prokhorov does what I did to try to make deals and get something before the trade deadline, then all that changes.
"But, you know, building a true professional team means having to spend money. We just haven't seen it."