- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
? Dirk CAN'T play defense
? Dirk CAN'T step up in the playoffs
? JET CAN'T be the point guard on a Finals team
? Avery Johnson CAN'T lead this team to the Finals as a 1st year coach
Thank you. Thank you to everyone who has ever said or written about what they think the Mavs cant do. It was motivation that Avery called on early and often.
The initial reviews of Cuban as an owner mocked the plasma TVs and fluffy, monogrammed bathrobes he bought for the players, perks that are still part of the fabric of life in Maverick Land. But the players seem to genuinely enjoy each other and revel in the we're- Dallas-and-you're-not ethos created by Cuban.
"Other owners I've been around are just suits who show up to shake your hand once in a while," says backup forward Keith Van Horn, who played for the Nets, 76ers, Knicks and Bucks before joining the Mavs. "Not Mark. He sits across from me on bus rides, and he always sits in the players' section of the plane. He talks about the same things that we talk about-movies, new technology, things like that. If he's ever in a bad mood, he doesn't show it. He is upbeat and positive and always behind us, and that creates a unique atmosphere." Who knows if the Mavs really like having the boss with them? But there aren't many other NBA owners who can tell stories about George Clooney, who persuaded Cuban to finance Good Night, and Good Luck.
During a media gathering before the Finals in Dallas, Cuban, as is his wont, was chatting in front of the Mavs' locker room, exactly the spot where Johnson was supposed to give a scheduled press conference. While Johnson waxed impatient behind closed doors, Sarah Melton, the team's cheery director of public relations, said, "Mark, could you move, please?" And Cuban moved. Donald Trump would not have moved.
In retrospect, that worst-franchise-in-the-'90s tag was a blessing for Cuban. He was going to change things anyway, but who could argue that things didn't need to be changed? "When Mark came in, it was almost like a guy trying to change the flow of a river," says assistant coach Rolando Blackman, a former Mav. "Everything about the Mavs was negative. Everything. Some people could maybe not like Mark personally, but, with the franchise in the shape it was in, you couldn't argue that his changes weren't positive."
Cuban installed some of his go-go-go buds, George Prokos as the ticket sales executive and Matt Fitzgerald as a marketing exec, but he retained many others, including senior vice president, corporate marketing, George Killebrew. "If you wanted to hop on the train, you could stay," said Cuban, who paid $285 million for the team. "As long as you realized it was going at a different speed." His coaching staff reflects this mixture of the old and the new. He and Don Nelson (whose resignation late last season was eagerly accepted by Cuban) coexisted for more than five years, but they were bound for a divorce; they respected each other as progressive thinkers, but the clash of egos was inevitable. Still, Del Harris, one of Nelson's closest friends, is Johnson's top assistant, and general manager Donnie Nelson is still the primary force in Mavericks personnel decisions. "Mark came along at our darkest hour and pulled this franchise up," says Donnie. "I'll never forget that." Don Nelson even remains as a consultant.