Mark Cuban was at it again with his open discussion with the media prior to the team’s game against the Denver Nuggets. His squadron was out of playoff contention, a position the team hasn’t been in for quite some time. This season definitely leaves him angry that he’s in a position that he’s not used to being in. He’s been knocked down and he’s motivated to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
Even more so than the discussion prior to the game against the Suns, Cuban opened up even more to reporters about his team’s disappointing year and what needs to happen going forward. He also had some high praise for one of his veterans. Here is the quoteboard for Mark Cuban for the game prior to the game against the Denver Nuggets.
First emotions as you found out you weren’t making the playoffs: “I wasn’t happy, but it wasn’t as bad as losing in the playoffs and walking off the court. That’s the worst. It’s a foreign feeling and I want to keep it that way.”
Is it a different kind of burn than losing in the playoffs? “In a playoff, you’re really playing for something. Here, you’re playing to avoid something. I mean, I lose all these extra workout days at home.”
The thoughts he was having as the Phoenix game was going down: “I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t. All you had to do was look at me, and it was all over me. There were just guys, when we needed it, they weren’t there at the wrong time.”
Is it disappointing that the younger guards didn’t really follow the lead of the veterans? “They picked the wrong time not to be there to contribute. I mean, you can’t expect every guy to have their best effort every game. That’s the nature of 82 games, but it wasn’t a good time.”
Why not always expect their best effort? “No, I didn’t say best effort. Meaning, I didn’t say about energy. I’m just talking about playing well.”
Shawn Marion did call out the team’s collective effort: “Yeah, I think Shawn was just frustrated. We talked during the game and I think there were a lot of guys frustrated about a lot of things. I think we just played stupid, and that’s been a hallmark of when we lose games.
“If anything, one of the things I’m really proud of our guys even when our backs were really, really against the wall, we played hard. It takes a lot of effort to fight from 10 games down to get to .500 or try to get to .500, especially when we’re playing a really tough schedule, the other night excluded. So I’m proud of the effort, I’m just not always proud of the basketball IQ. When you see dumb plays, sometimes they look like lack of effort plays when they’re just dumb.”
Did you expect a different recovery period from losing the high IQ point guard? “No, we expected a different roster here and Dirk to be healthy. We thought we had young guns to put around old guys. Our backcourt roster wasn’t what we planned it to be, but that’s just the way it goes.”
Will they be actively be looking for basketball IQ guys? “We definitely need more basketball IQ, no question. Can’t turn the ball over in the fourth quarter like that. But a lot of that is roster driven, because we’re asking guys to do things they can’t do, so we’ve got to fix that and put guys in better positions to succeed. We were asking them to do things that don’t play to their strengths, so we’ll deal with it, one way or the other.”
On Dirk being on board with how things have gone: “Dirk and I have been through this for so long I can finish his sentences when he talks to the media. The only thing that has changed in 15 years is he doesn’t use the word circus as often. Everything used to be a circus.”
Who takes the blame for this not working out? “Look, it didn’t work out the way we planned. It’s all on me and Donnie. Period. End of story. It’s our job to put people in position to succeed. We didn’t do enough of it.
“It’s not an apology. That’s just the nature of the beast. I bust my ass to do as best as we can. No one hates losing more than me, so I’ll keep on busting my ass and hopefully it will change.”
Were there different plans in terms of free agency between you and Donnie? “Donnie and I had the same plan. Donnie and I had disagreements on certain players, and so I defer to Donnie. When it comes to picking players, he always wins, unless it’s a late second-round pick.”
What was the original plan? “We’d have had a No. 13 (Delonte West) and a No. 2 (Jason Kidd). That was a big difference. And Dirk wouldn’t have missed 29 games.”
Was there anyone who was close to being shown the door due to mailing in the season? “There’s no obvious candidates for lack of effort. Guys put their heads down at various points, but like I said, you don’t rally and go nine games over .500 against the toughest part of your schedule when guys quit. I mean, we blew it when we had the easiest part of the schedule at the beginning of the year. That’s when we blew it. “
Rebuilding is not a word you like to use. What is this? “It’s a quick rebuild. It’s not a four-year rebuild recycle. I guess when you miss the playoffs, by definition you’re rebuilding. So we’ve got to get better.”
A quick rebuild? “Next year.”
Is that possible? “We’re going to try. I’m not here telling you we’re only going to do it via the draft. I’m not here telling you we’re going to stick with our young guys and grow them. I’m not here telling you I won’t take back a lot more money in a trade if it gets us where we want to go. It’s all a matter of approach, I guess. Mavs fans just want teams with free agents to get eliminated early.”
If you talk about contend next year, you’re talking about getting major, major talent: “I’m not making any predictions. All I’m saying is we’re not going to do a traditional rebuild. That’s how we got all this cap room, so we wouldn’t. We’re going to be opportunistic.”
So you’re saying to keep the pressure and spotlight on you in this situation: “Always. Where else should it be?”
The lottery: “I told myself I never wanted to be back again. It worked for a long time. I made it from first grade to graduating high school.”
The direction of blame for the season not working going to him: “Where else can it be? I nominate me, too.”
How do you work harder? “Like any other business deal. Every permutation, one option. And you just look for different opportunities and options. When I first came into the league, I was the first I think to do a five-team trade that other people weren’t going to think of. Any type of bizzarro thing you can think of.
“It’ll be on my brain 24 hours a day, literally. It drives me nuts. I get up and I’ll be in front of my computer. I go to bed, I’ll fall asleep at my computer. When I shut you guys out, I can make good decisions.
Rooting for former Mavs in the playoffs? “I just root for underdogs and I root for teams with free agents to lose early.”
To keep their price down or make their current situations less attractive? “You decide.”
Are there similarities between the New York Knicks of this season and the 2011 Mavs? “They’re more one-on-one. They’re clear-out. We’re all about moving the ball. Now if they get double-teamed and move the ball … but when a guy is scoring like Carmelo, he needs the ball.”
Having to get more talented next year: “We’ve got to get better. Only one team can win. I want to see what’s out there and we’ll put together the best team (we can). One conference has multiple teams with big payrolls. Well, both conferences do. So it’ll be interesting to see all the ones who don’t win respond to not winning.
“Look, we did the best we could. We obviously didn’t have what we thought we would have. We obviously should have had more. I don’t know if we could have, but we should have. And so it’s all on me. If that means I let Rick down, I let Rick down. People always give me s—, why do you put your email up on the screen and why are you always out front? This is why. So if someone’s got a shot to take, take it at me. My job is to make sure we put everybody in position to succeed and we obviously didn’t. We couldn’t even figure out what f—— lineups to put together. And you can’t go in with any confidence and say a team with 33, 34 and 35-year-olds isn’t going to get injured. We just thought they wouldn’t be injured that much.”
Vince Carter has actually been one of your most durable guys: “I feel bad for Vince. Let me just say that right off. Vince is a warrior. All these things I’ve heard in the past about him being soft and not playing hard, f— that. That dude comes out to deliver every f—— night. Even when a game got out of hand, he was busting people for not doing what they were supposed to do. He was cheerleading on the bench. I feel worse for Vince than I do for Dirk. Vince hasn’t been there and he’s had two great seasons for us. And he’s just a first-class guy who busts his a– every f—— game. You never look at Vince and say he’s taking a play off. He’s f—— taking charges. He should have had a charge in the last game that went against us.
“Elton’s been great in the locker room. We’ve been really, really lucky because the vets we have are feisty and fiery and championship parts. And they don’t allow the young guys not to work hard. And they don’t allow the young guys not to work hard. They can’t fix mistakes, but they can sure get on them about playing as hard as they can and recognizing who we are as an organization. I do feel bad for Vince. You guys about doing it for Dirk, doing it for Vince is just as important.”
On Vince embracing his role as the leader off the bench: “He just wants to compete and win. Period. End of story. All the s— that I heard from the past, I don’t know where that came from. I’m proud that he’s on the Mavericks. The guy lays it out every time. I can’t put it any other way. He’s one of those guys I want to retire here.”
Talking about the reputation he’s heard about Vince in regards to picking and choosing and not playing hard: “I’ve never seen that, ever. Not one possession. The guy’s getting hit, banged on, smacked in the face, trying to take charges, driving to the bucket when we need it, probably our best passer, best playmaker, wanted the shot at the end – first class in every way, shape and form. If I had a hall of fame vote, he’d get it.”
On Vince retiring here, you mean him playing beyond next season? “I hope so. The current trend is, as guys get older, they lose a little weight and I think Vince is athletic enough and smart enough and genetically gifted enough that if he goes on that same Steve Nash, Dirk, Tim Duncan path, where you lose a little bit of weight every year and keep your spring, he’s a genetic freak. He can play for more than a year, easily. He’ll be cranking those motorcycle handles for a while.”
Does the bad feeling of this year compare to anything else? “Nope. Maybe getting turned down on a date. No, I really don’t. I guess it’s like a business going out of business. I haven’t had many of those. It’s been a long time. It’s not a good feeling. It motivates you to work harder, and to get back in the gym, so to speak. Just work harder. The difference is in other businesses, you can go out and sell something and try to control your own destiny. And hustle and do better. Here, you got 29 teams trying to do the same s— and beat you at it. It’s harder and there’s no easy template for winning and if there was, everybody would do it.”
Any regrets about letting certain people go? “Yeah, you always play it out. And I don’t think we’d be any place different. We might be a playoff team. But I don’t think we were going to go anywhere, right? We would have had the same injuries and same problems and we’d be sitting here saying, what do you going to do?
“Would I rather be where we were the last eight out of 12 years? One team wins and 29 are tied for last. Yeah, I go through it in my head. If we’d have kept Tyson – we wouldn’t have been able to keep J-Kidd – and kept Jet, where would we be? We’d have those guys and minimum-level players.”
You basically decided to swing for the fences then and right now, it’s not looking so good: “We decided to swing for the fences five years ago when we had all of our contracts run out in two years. That’s when we swung for the fences. So we just stuck to our plan.”
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.