Mark Cuban is too good an owner in an objective sense to have been named in The Hook's bad owner award show on Monday. Cuban puts his fans first every single night, and his players and employees are a close No. 2 (unless they are named Lamar Odom, in which case, to heck with them). He is a good owner, and the league would be richer (literally and figuratively) with more Mark Cubans.
But he has his issues. The biggest one, perhaps, is his unchecked ego: he's a good talker, and unfortunately that translates into Cuban thinking everyone else is stupid enough to fall for his worst claptrap. As someone who obsessively follows the league, it gets old. The lightbulb moment came back when a reporter wrote that the Mavericks were working on a deal with the Nets to bring Jason Kidd to Dallas. Cuban told the reporter that he was "smoking crack." A couple days later, Kidd was a Maverick. Cuban didn't care that the media knew he would openly lie -- he may have preferred it so reporters would stop badgering him. But to openly lie like that is seriously insulting to everyone involved. It's sneering and condescending. It's gross.
Cuban has never really stopped. He's still a great owner, and still doing good by fans. But he's still disrespecting everyone else's intelligence. Witness his latest tale, courtesy of Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News:
[Cuban] had said all summer that the Mavericks were better off without Deron Williams. To that, I had to ask him: If that's the case, why did you make such a hard-core run to get him?
"You know, (it was) on the advice of our basketball people," Cuban said. "No disrespect to Deron, but sometimes from a team perspective, the best deals are the ones you don't get done.
"We would have made it work with Deron. But I think it's better for our team the way it turned out."
Reminder: the Mavericks had a decent little offseason after losing on Deron and conceding the Dwight Howard trade sweepstakes. Dallas traded for Darren Collison, plucked Elton Brand off of amnesty waivers and signed Chris Kaman and O.J. Mayo. That's all pretty neat: Kaman and Brand are serviceable, Collison is good, Mayo could be really nice.
But Deron Williams is on another plane entirely.
If the Mavericks had landed Williams, we'd be asking whether Dirk Nowitzki had another Finals run left in him. If the Mavericks had landed Williams, we wouldn't just be talking about the return of the Lakers. We'd be talking about how amazing the re-rise of the Mavericks and the Lakers have been. We'd be comparing the Deron Williams acquisition to the Dwight Howard acquisition. If the Mavericks landed Deron Williams, we'd be talking about the possibility that Howard wouldn't sign an extension to stay in L.A. ... and would instead try to join his friend D-Will in Big D in 2013.
We aren't talking about any of that stuff. We're watching Matt Harpring declare that the Mavericks will be better than they were last year. Last year? The Mavericks were 36-30, the No. 7 seed in the West, with the No. 22 offense in the NBA. No. 22. With Dirk Nowitzki. They got smoked right out of the first round by the Thunder. They held off the bizarre Houston Rockets by only two games for a playoff spot and finished 14 games (!) behind the Spurs in the Southwest. "Better than last year" is likely to be an accurate assessment of the 2012-13 Mavericks, but primarily because last year was so uncharacteristically poor.
When Cuban claims that having Collison and Mayo in the backcourt is better for the Mavericks than having Williams, that's not just an insult to Williams and to the "basketball people" that Cuban blames the D-Will chase on. That's an insult to everyone paying attention. The case doesn't even need to be made, because it's so obvious: Williams is far, far better than Collison, and is precisely the type of scorer and passer that a past-his-prime Dirk needs. He would have been an unmitigated coup.
If Cuban has some sort of hidden meaning here, relating to some mysterious chase of another free agent in 2013, then he obviously thinks he's smarter than his well-regarded "basketball people," who were gung ho about picking up D-Will. More likely is that Cuban knows he got sold a sack of tricks by Williams, his agent and the Nets as the point guard made the appearances of considering Dallas when he intended to stay in Brooklyn all along. Cuban doesn't like being a mark, resents the episode and has convinced himself that Williams is overrated, trouble or something worse.
Cuban's wrong. Williams is fantastic, and worth whatever nominal trouble he'd have been. It's so baldly obvious that the longer Cuban continues to pitch these wolf tickets, the worse he looks. That's too bad considering he's otherwise such a model NBA owner.
Oh well. Nobody's perfect.
The Hook is a daily NBA column by Tom Ziller. See the archives.