A number of clichés might be applied to Mark Cuban, but “flying under the radar” is not one of them. Cuban fielded a Dallas Mavericks team this year that had little if any reason to have high expectations.
But, of course, he had grand plans.
“It all comes down to what you do on the court, and I think we’ve put ourselves in great position to really do good things this year,” Cuban said in preseason. “And I think we’ve put ourselves in position to keep our players. So when they do great things, they can all grow together. And that’s our goal.”
Only Cuban could look at his preseason roster and dream of great possibilities. The Mavericks began 2012-13 only one season removed from winning a championship, but except for Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion, no one on their team had participated in the 2011 title.
The changes Cuban decided on have been well documented. With a new collective bargaining agreement imposing additional restrictions on player movement, Cuban chose to plan for the future rather than lock his team into long-term contracts.
Some people who had repeatedly bashed Cuban for the Mavericks inability to win a title went on to bash him for not keeping his team together and making a run for a second consecutive title.
What that reasoning failed to recognize was the team the critics had ripped Cuban for assembling was the same team they did not want to break up. It made no sense.
Plus Cuban knew the 2010-11 Mavericks had overachieved spectacularly. When he looked at rosters in Miami, San Antonio, Los Angeles and a few other contenders, he saw reality. And that reality was that chances of a repeat were as minimal as the basketball expertise of some of his critics.
After a quarter of the season, Cuban’s master plan is still a work in progress, but, perhaps surprisingly, the Mavericks have had their moments. They started 4-1 and it did seem at the time that opening the season with a victory on the Lakers’ home court was impressive. Little did anyone know it was the beginning of the end of Mike Brown’s short tenure in L.A.
The Mavericks also dealt the Knicks one of their few losses of the year. The rest of the time, however, it’s been a grind and despite Cuban’s bountiful optimism, it’s seems unlikely the Mavericks are going to be a threat to win their second title in three years.
Their chances of ruining the year for one of the title contenders, however, are much better than anyone might expect.
It may seem a little odd to suggest that, not only because the Mavericks are not currently in a playoff position, but also because they scored only 74 points Friday in a loss to Toronto – the second time this season they have failed to break the 80-point barrier.
On the positive side, however, they have managed to be .500 or better for all but 12 days of the season and since Dirk Nowitzki has yet to play one minute, that is reasonably competitive.