The Man You Hate to Love 

Meet the new Mark Cuban. The usually outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner apparently loves the new NBA, has traded in his Mavs Fan For Life shirt for one that reads TYDS (Thank You David Stern), and seemingly now avoids opportunities to critique Stern's league. "I don't do any promotional or marketing interviews about the NBA any more," wrote Cuban in response to Hustle and Flow's request for an interview.

The Dallas honcho, it appears, has developed a new outlook on life that can be directly attributed to the so-called Cuban Rules recently passed by the NBA Board of Governors. Since purchasing the Mavericks in January of 2000, Cuban has reportedly been levied fines totaling $1,665,000 by the NBA.  In Game 1 of last year's semifinals against the Spurs alone he was fined $200,000 for taking the court and for criticizing the process by which playoff officials are selected. During the Finals, Cuban was omnipresent both on and off the court and was eventually fined $250,000 for what was labeled by the association as "several acts of misconduct."

After the Finals, Mavs star forward Dirk Nowitzki weighed in on the Mark Cuban experience, perhaps foreshadowing the new rules. "We all know what Mark brings to the team, how he supports us, Nowitzki told the Dallas Morning News. "We live with who he is, and we love him that way. But do I think it's good for us always? No.

"He sits right there by our bench," Nowitzki continued. "I think it's a bit much. But we all told him this before. It's nothing new. The game starts, and he's already yelling at `the referees`. So he needs to know how to control himself a little."

In essence, the Cuban Rules prevent owners from taunting referees and opposing players, participating in huddles, storming the court, and, in Dallas parlance, acting like the awkward spawn of Jerry Jones and Terrell Owens. Prior to the Spurs' season-opening 97-91 win in Big D, the Mavs owner spat sarcasm while praising the NBA commissioner. "I'm reborn," Cuban told the Associated Press. "It's no longer Mark Cuban, the benefactor. It's Mark Cuban, David Stern disciple. And I say that with all seriousness." A few days later he further professed his admiration for the new regulations on his blog. "No complaining," wrote Cuban. "No backtalk. No taking off your warmups on the court. No arena sound system is too loud. The new ball. All changes for the better. Anyone who has seen me at the games knows its a completely different ballgame, and I'm thankful."

Truth be told, I already miss the old Mark Cuban. Despite his frequent, often annoying outbursts, he was a good NBA owner, and my eighth-favorite - right after David Robinson, Magic Johnson, Jay-Z, Julianna Holt, Usher, Peter Holt, and Nelly. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I've never fully trusted David Stern, and am part of a small group of conspiracy theorists who believe he secretly controls the universe. Cuban has always been a thorn in Stern's side and, hey, he turned around an awful Mavs franchise that couldn't even win with Jason Kidd.

Before he was effectively muzzled - by either Stern or his own accord, depending on your opinion - Cuban had the University of Texas at Arlington Physics department compare the old and new NBA balls. The folks at UT-A concluded that the new balls have a shorter return bounce, tend to bounce more erratically, are sticky when dry, and slippery when wet.  Their preliminary report noted that the flaws could be fixed through "relatively minor changes in manufacturing," and Cuban himself basically recommended that the league change out the balls whenever they become wet, as in baseball and football, and that NBA floors be inspected for "dead spots" in need of correction.

These are the types of things that an effective Mark Cuban does, and it will be interesting to see how long his silence lasts. He's already been spotted complaining at courtside, and at some point he and Stern have to reach some king of compromise on Cuban's refusal to market and promote the NBA for the betterment of the league. It's a long season, and once the playoffs roll around, Spurs fans will probably be reintroduced to the man they love to hate.

 


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