Leading up to the game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Jan. 12, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said there was a “100 percent chance we’re going to try to look to do something,” in regards to trying to make a deal before the Feb. 21 trade deadline. It will be the same story for the Mavericks as they will be opportunistic and aggressively pursue trade avenues throughout the league.
Just two days later, Cuban chimed in again. “We’re letting everybody know the Bank of Cuban’s open,” Cuban told reporters. “And if it’s the right deal, we don’t mind taking back money. But we’re not going to do a trade just to do a trade. It’s got to be worthwhile.”
Based on the track history for the Mavericks, there’s an awfully strong chance Cuban’s 100 percent estimation that they’ll do something is accurate. To date, the front office hasn’t suggested that there is anyone in particular they’re zeroing in on. Cuban has consistently laid out his game plan, which he honestly doesn’t have to do, on how they set everything up to be ready to refresh their blueprint based on how the CBA changed things. Now, Cuban is ready to once again be in a position to pounce if an opportunity comes to the forefront. It’s clear that he’s doing his due diligence. “Every day, I’m going through rosters, trying to come up with ideas for Donnie,” Cuban said.
The work, or destruction, depending on who you ask, the front office did leading up to now has gotten them to where they can take back money in a deal. That was the situation the Mavericks thrived on over the years before the collective-bargaining agreement brought harsher penalties for those going over the cap like the Mavericks annually did. Teams over the cap are restricted on what they could actually do in terms of bringing players on board.
The Mavericks made their moves leading up this season in an unorthodox way. They actually had cap space to work with and they used it to acquire everyone outside of Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones through free agency. They were able to have that cap space by ultimately letting the key players off the championship squad of 2010-11 walk during that following summer and this past one. It was a risk that Cuban was taking, but he felt and still feels that he has a true pulse of the upcoming landscape of the league based off the new CBA. With that added advantage, he feels it was a logical decision to move forward with the cap space. There was a logical process, but the results haven’t necessarily worked out as he planned in the early stages. “The logic, I thought, was still sound,” Cuban said. “I think there are a lot of people that thought I was an idiot now. There’s a better than even chance that they’re right, but that was the logic.”
While the owner’s Bank of Cuban comment made for a great headline, I think it served two purposes. It changed the tone of Cuban’s message that has been presented over the last year and it spoke to a single player. Since he moved forward with this new plan, phrases like financial flexibility, keeping the powder dry and needing to read and understand the new CBA have been in heavy rotation. They haven’t necessarily been delivered by Cuban, but they have been associated with him now.
Not that he cares, but the aggressive owner has taken a public relations hit. People don’t think he’s as bold as he was before. He actually is as he’s taken a chance on young guards such as Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo in hopes of making them franchise pieces for the future. Cuban could have kept the championship core together. Instead, he took the chance of trying to keep his franchise at an elite level. He’s taken those chances, but fans weren’t happy with the concept of trying to fix something that didn’t appear to be broken on the surface.
Many fans feel he’s taken a conservative approach with trying to take his franchise into the next generation. That’s why the Bank of Cuban comment works well. The approach really hasn’t changed. The Mavericks will remain to be opportunistic. The phrase now draws attention back to Cuban as an aggressive owner who will do whatever it takes to help the team win. In reality, the approach hasn’t changed. It’s just that the perception gradually changes.
The purpose of making the comment was also to deliver a message to Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk’s name has been in the news a lot lately in regards to his future. ESPNDallas.com’s Tim MacMahon spoke with Dirk last earlier this month and reported on how building with the foundation of hope was problematic. Before the rumors could start to swirl in regards to Dirk being traded out of Dallas, Cuban swatted away those ideas. “I told Dirk we’re not going to trade him. He was happy. I think,” Cuban said, laughing. “I wanted to make it clear to him. I said, ‘We’re in this through thick and thin,’ and so there’s no way I would trade him, no matter what.”
You can go back to Cuban’s statement at Dirk’s MVP ceremony back in 2007 to see how much Dirk means to the owner. There’s a special relationship there between the player and the owner. It’s very open, as well. The two will communicate often and Cuban will be there for Dirk when he needs to let off some steam and tell him things aren’t going well and that things need to change. They both have the same goal in mind. Both of them want to win and do the best thing for the organization. Cuban’s comments show that he’s committed to making sure the team will be competitive during the final two years of his deal.
Dirk was happy to hear that Cuban’s “bank” was open. “Cubes has been generous with the money, obviously,” Nowitzki said. “We’ve been playing some of the most luxury tax over the last ten years probably in the league, with New York. He always made sure winning was first. Yeah, that’s obviously good to know that he still wants to go for it.
“That’s obviously what he promised me when I re-signed here in 2010. I wanted to make sure that he still wanted to go for it and keep spending and using his resources to make sure this was a winning franchise, and obviously then we didn’t know that the next year we were going to win it all.
“That just happened and it was a great byproduct, but our plan was to be a winning team the four years that I signed on, so we’ll see what happens. We’ll see what happens. Donnie [Nelson] and him are always active. I don’t care how good our team is, even if we were first in the Western Conference we’d probably working the phones. That’s just the nature of the game.”
So what exactly are the Mavericks looking to get in return from a team that comes up to the Bank of Cuban? “Anything that helps us,” Cuban said. It sounds like Cuban will be aggressive and is ready to make a move. While that’s news, it shouldn’t come as a shock to people.
One thing to keep in mind with the possibility of adding a major contract to the mix is what will have to happen going forward. The Mavericks will have a juggling act they have to go through if they add a big contract as they have to balance that and maintain the ability to retain some of the free agents they’ll have on their roster, mainly O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison. A move or a lack of one could provide an indicator as to whether or not they feel they’ve got new building blocks for the future in Mayo and or Collison. They could still have some flexibility to add a name with a big deal during the deadline and still retain one or both of them going forward, but it will be a challenge. One thing that helps the cause to help Collison is that he’ll be a restricted free agent, allowing the Mavericks to go over the cap to retain him. It will be an interesting stretch of time between now the Feb. 21.
Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.