Talking with Mark Cuban is always a mixed bag. You get to hear about Donald Trump, Shark Tank and other things, while avoid sweat that drips off him as he’s working out on his stairmaster. Those topics come up, but there is often great discussion that comes from the chats with Cuban. The last two home games were no exception. The Mavericks were still clinging to hope and life going into the game against the Phoenix Suns.
Even with the hope, the writing was on the wall, so the media decided to see if Cuban would be pensive and start looking ahead to the summer. He obliged. Here is the quoteboard for Mark Cuban for the game prior to the game against the Phoenix Suns.
On Delonte West and if he has the ability to make it back into the NBA: “He knows how to play. It’s not always your on-court skills.”
On their season and their offseason, even if they were a playoff team with their record with Dirk being back: “We have room to improve, a lot of room to improve. We are what our record says we are, right?”
Wanting to avoid being in his type of limbo where the team is hovering in mediocrity: “No question, no question. But in that particular case I’ll take into consideration that we still have to improve, but we’ve got some good pieces that know how to play and can help us next year. Barring injury, we should be better no matter what.”
If it is important to have continuity going into next year: “Very, very. Well, it depends on which pieces. We’ve turned over pieces before, a lot of pieces before, it’s just the remaining pieces were a little bit more of a core. This year if we would have kept Dirk and Shawn and Vince healthy the majority of games together, I think it would have made a big difference. We want to add the right pieces, but corporate knowledge is always important. So hopefully part of the process will be adding guys that we know we’re keeping guys to be here a long time.”
On looking at his older guys and thinking about health: “I know, that’s part of it. Look what’s happened to us, look what’s happened to San Antonio, Boston, that’s part of the trade-off. And that’s one of the reasons we made the changes we did. We didn’t keep a lot of our older players or injury-prone players because that was a risk. We went to try to add younger pieces and some will stick, some won’t, but we’ll continue to try that.”
On believing Dirk’s comments that this summer is an important summer: “There’s never been a non-important summer. I was telling Dirk if he wouldn’t have missed 27 games this would be a less important summer. But no, every summer is important and every summer we’re going to do exactly what we do. I get the point that when you have older guys every summer takes on more significance.”
Add on top of it that you have just about nine expiring contracts: “We’ve had seven, eight expiring contracts before, it’s not like that’s a different situation to be in. But we’ve got to be younger, we’ve got to have core pieces that are younger. See where the opportunities are and go.”
On if there is pressure to justify the post-championship moves: “Let’s put it this way, if we were in the position some of the other older teams are with injuries, knowing their cap situation, you guys would be killing me knowing these guys are older, expect more injuries and how can you be surprised, and now we’re all locked in. So, no, if anything what’s happened with other teams, what’s happening justifies what we’ve done, but it doesn’t matter. We’re not looking to get justified or complimented on it, we just want to get back to where we can win a trophy.”
On what needs to improve: “We don’t have a real rim protector that can play. We’ve got to improve there. I mean we’ve got so many areas we have to improve, and we will, we’ll do our best.”
On whether or not there will be big turnover on the roster: “I have no idea. We’ll see what’s available to us. We’re not going to do things just to do things. We’re going to do it the same way we do it every year. You’ve heard me say the exact same thing. When we got eliminated in the first round of the playoffs multiple years or got eliminated in the first round, what are you going to do? This isn’t a championship team, how are you going to get there? Break it up? Is it time to break it up, is it time to break it up, is it time to break it up? Okay. We’re trying to have our cake and eat it too, in some respects. We’re going to be opportunistic and do the best we can.”
Going into the summer to address specific needs or just getting whatever the best talent is available: “I think that goes hand-in-hand. We don’t need a stretch 4. I think we’re set for our backup 3, Vince. Shawn can either start or back up 4, he’s very capable, flexible ability to be a multi-positional player, and then we’ll see from there. See where some of our young guys will be, and some of it depending on what’s going on out there. Same as every year, it doesn’t change.”
On if it is different trying to take advantage of Dirk’s last years: “You guys have been saying that for all these years. You can’t repeat the same thing over and over again and expect the answer to be different. We’re going to be opportunistic and we’re going to try to do the best we can. Hopefully he’ll follow the path that Timmy Duncan follows and play until he’s 42. Dirk takes care of his body, he’s diligent, he’s conscientious, he’s not an athletic-type guy that has to live off his athleticism. You’ve got Vince, he’s going to be playing until he’s 43. When it’s time for Dirk to hang them up then we’ll address the issue. He’s still playing at a high level.”
On the fact that maximizing Dirk’s golden years and building for the future not being mutually exclusive: “That’s correct. We maximized for the first generation of Dirk’s golden years to win a championship, so we’ll do our best for his second generation of golden years and then the next generation and the next generation until he runs out of golden years. That’s what we’re trying to do. Hypothetically speaking, if Dirk wasn’t hurt and we’re in the hunt for a 5th or 6th seed, you’re asking me different questions: Hey, you guys put together a decent squad, what do you have to do to take it to the next level? That’s the way it goes. We are who our record says we are, but at the same time, unless we planned that Dirk’s only going to play 60 percent of the season, which kills pretty much anything we would do anyway, so you look at how guys played outside of Dirk to make evaluations, what comes next and we’ll do what we think we can. But, it doesn’t change our record, but you have to presume that he’s going to come back and play — 65 games? — that’s a big difference.”
On trying to transition Dirk as a No. 2 star: “Every team goes through that. Other than the Spurs who have had a longer life span because they were able to get Duncan, every team goes through that and there’s no quick answer. Trust me, we want to do that (make Dirk a co-star). If you’ve got the guy who’s going to say, you know what, I’m going to come to the Mavericks no matter what, let me know.”
Free agency or trying to trade for that player to making a trade for that player to make Dirk a No. 2 star: “We’re going to try. I mean we’re going to be as opportunistic as we can. There’s no underground railroad that brings players that we want. Look back, the Celtics went how many years before they got those trades. Miami blew it up in order to put it back together, Oklahoma City, no one just gets it handed to them. So we’re going to try to do all we can understanding the life cycle of their career.”
On if there are concerns about free agents judging Dallas as truly an ideal free agent destination: “I’m not worried about that. No one’s ever said, I don’t want to go to Dallas for any given reason. I’ve never heard from anybody, I wouldn’t consider, ever. Guys who have gone to other teams because we couldn’t offer as much money have said we would have said if you could have matched we would have come here. That’s something you guys created and you guys have taken and run with, but you find me one free agent that we lost or didn’t come here that said I just didn’t want to go to Dallas. It’s never happened. I’m not concerned with that at all.”
Judging worth of free agents versus years and money and deciding whether or not to spend the money: “We don’t try to win the summer. We don’t try to say okay, we’re going to give a guy a lot of money. He’s got to be worth the money. There are guys that are team difference-makers and none of these guys that you’ve mentioned (like Goran Dragic) went to a team, that signed as a free agent, and turned them around. What kind of impact would he have on your team? End of story. That’s it. How many games can he win me, if at all? If he’s not going to be a difference-maker why would you do it (sign him to a lengthy contract)? I have to look at Donnie and Rick. Donnie’s going to say don’t do it and Rick’s going to say don’t do it. I’m going to say to Donnie, should we do it? And he’ll say no. Teams sign guys all the time that they end up having to get rid of all the time. And it’s just a different animal when you’re trading for him and you get off a guy and you have to take bad contracts to get a good contract. We’re wide open for whatever puts us in a position to get a difference-maker and if we can’t then we’ll deal with whatever it is.”
On having to be flexible based on market prices: “We don’t look at it that way. I don’t look at it and say this this guy is worth only so much and I refuse to pay any more. It’s ’what’s the impact on our team he’s going to have.’ So his impact, his value to us might be a lot higher than it is to somebody else. His value to somebody else might be a lot higher than it is to us. What position does he play? Do we think he can be a real impact player? It’s not we won’t pay more than X-number of dollars for this guy because if a guy is really going to make us better we’ll overpay him if that’s what it takes to get him. I don’t care if it’s in a trade, we’ll take back something sloppy to get him if he makes a difference. We always have. But we’re not one of those teams that says based off of this formula, this is all this guy’s worth and we’re not going to pay him more. You’ve always heard me say that if you have a team of certain players, one guy, you might have to pay him more simply because he makes everybody else on your team better or not having him makes the value of everybody else on your team so much lower that you are going to be worse.”
Going up against teams this summer who also have cap space: “Depends what their needs are and who’s available, and not everybody takes the same approach as we do. The other interesting thing is there will be teams that can’t do sign-and-trades for players that are free agents, so the market is not going to be quite as big.”
On if he feels there will be a lot of teams that are looking to get off a lot of salary: “I don’t know. Some teams that probably are in that position. It will be interesting. I think there will be teams that are right up against that tax plus four threshold that can’t improve their team other than the mini-mid-level and I think those are the teams that are going to try get off of money more than anything.”
Dirk making a three-game difference, a four-game difference and not being injured: “Yeah, out of 29 games? A four-game difference is only winning two more games. Absolutely. Crazy season.”
PART TWO WILL BE TOMORROW. IT FEATURES CUBAN’S COMMENTS AFTER THE TEAM’S PLAYOFF FATE WAS SEALED. IT IS CAN’T-MISS STUFF.
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.