Fans fretted on the sports radio airwaves Thursday that normally free-spending owner Mark Cuban is frittering away a chance for a repeat championship by offering key pieces to last season's title run a take-it-or-leave-it, one-year contract offer. Cuban, however, said he is reacting to the new rules of the collective bargaining agreement that was ratified Thursday by the league's owners and players.
"This was the plan the minute we agreed to the new CBA," Cuban said. "This is 100 percent about the CBA and understanding the impact it will have on the market."
Appearing Friday on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Ben and Skin Show, Cuban added: "I voted against it. But we are where we are, right?"
Cuban, offering his first take on the franchise's strategy now that the lockout is over, said he is attempting to create maximum financial flexibility under a far more rigid economic system that promises harsh penalties for luxury tax offenders and hits repeat tax payers with an additional, severe tax.
The Mavs have been luxury tax payers since its existence, and often have spent well above the threshold.
But more than just the harsher financial penalties, the new rules make it dramatically more difficult for tax-paying teams to improve their rosters through detriments such as a reduced mid-level exception and restrictive trade guidelines. Teams that remain under the salary cap will have the greatest flexibility to improve their rosters through free agency and trades.
In the past, Cuban would agree to take on additional payroll, as he did to acquire Jason Kidd in 2008. That strategy, Cuban said, will now only work to handcuff a franchise by reducing its options to make moves.
"If this were the old CBA rules, we probably would have kept everyone together. But, the rules changed," he said. "If we were able to sign everyone to two-year deals that would have possibly changed things as well, but that wasn't in the cards either."
The league's salary cap structure will remain the same for the first two years of the CBA. In Year 3, the luxury tax takes a significant hike.
Cuban spent about $88 million on payroll last season and paid an additional $1 tax for each $1 spent over the $70.3 million luxury tax threshold.
If Cuban had the same payroll in Year 3 of the CBA, he would pay $38.5 million in tax. The fear was if Chandler was re-signed to a near-maximum five-year deal, Barea was re-signed to a multiyear deal as well as others, then Cuban would lose the ability to make changes to the roster when and if he deemed necessary.
"We have to change our approach," Cuban said. "By getting back under the cap, we have a ton of flexibility not only for free-agent signings, but also trades."
Cuban said he was sensitive to those fans watching key pieces to last season's remarkable championship run leave the team, but he believes the strategy undertaken is the only way to ensure the club, especially now with an aging roster, remains flexible and competitive in future seasons.
"It's never easy when players who have been great to the organization leave," Cuban said. "I believe we are going to be incredibly well positioned to compete this year, to add to our team, to be just as opportunistic as we ever were and to continue to improve."
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.