DALLAS -- Owner Mark Cuban defiantly disagrees with those who have declared the Dallas Mavericks' season a lost cause and have suggested that tanking is in the franchise's best interest.
"Haters gonna hate. We think that you always compete," Cuban said after finishing his pregame StairMaster routine Sunday night. "If you're competing when the league is better, like it is this year, if you don't do well, you'll be in a position to get a good pick. Which, remember, even if you have the worst record in the NBA, there's a 75 percent chance you're not going to get the top pick."
The injury-ravaged Mavericks snapped an eight-game losing streak with Sunday's 91-81 win win over the New Orleans Pelicans but still have the league's worst record (3-13). It was the team's longest losing streak during Cuban's ownership tenure, which dates to January 2000.
However, Cuban refuses to acknowledge that this is a rebuilding season for the Mavs, pointing out that Dallas is 5½ games out of the Western Conference's eighth seed with the vast majority of the schedule remaining.
Cuban, whose team has made the playoffs in all but one full season under his watch, is also adamant that accepting losing in an attempt to get the top pick in the draft is a poor franchise-building strategy.
"There are so many teams that became four years away from four years away because guys just learned how to lose," Cuban said. "They stopped caring about any individual game and just got used to it, and you don't want guys developing those bad habits. We have so many young guys on this team, we want the games to mean something. Not to be, 'OK, who are we going to pull in the fourth quarter so we can lose this game?' That's not how teams develop good habits.
"The only way you overcome that is to have the ultimate superstar carry you through, and it's tough to draft the ultimate superstar. I don't see any Shaqs or LeBrons or Tim Duncans in this draft, so I don't think that's the right way to do it. You just ignore the haters, let them bitch, and go about your business."
Cuban did admit that there is a distinct possibility that the Mavs, who also rank last in the league in point differential, could try as hard as possible to win and still end up with a top pick. That might even be probable if Dirk Nowitzki, who continues to struggle with soreness in his right Achilles tendon and missed his 11th game of the season Sunday, can't get fully healthy and return to form.
If the Mavs don't improve significantly, Cuban didn't rule out making future-minded trades before the deadline in February. But he's nowhere close to making that kind of determination in late November.
"We'll play it by ear," Cuban said. "The one thing you don't do is panic. The one thing you don't do is make any rushed judgments. You see what you have -- right? -- and that's exactly what we'll do, and we'll make determinations from there. If we just can't get healthy, that will tell us one thing. If we can and we're just not any good, that will tell us another thing. If we can and we start rolling along and we think we can get a lot better, then that tells what we do there. You just don't know. The crazy thing you don't do is panic."
Cuban laughed when he said that the Mavs would tank if they knew there were a few "transcendent players" in the draft. Yet he indicated that he was not as high on this draft class, which has been hyped as one of the best in years.
"This is not a race-to-the-bottom year," Cuban said. "So we get every chance to be as good as we can be. The team that has the worst record has a 75 percent chance that they won't get the No. 1 pick. That's not good odds. You'll get a top-three pick ... but there's no good reason to tank unless you think that there's three difference-makers. Not just All-Stars, but difference-makers.
"We'll see what happens across the course of the season to see if anybody emerges like that, but I'm not panicking, not rushing to judgment, not pulling the plug -- pick a euphemism."
Saad Yousuf of 103.3 FM ESPN in Dallas contributed to this report.