I'm not a Dallas Mavericks fan but I hate to see a team with such good players stumble and play below their potential.
Mark Cuban's interference looking for short term results (in the form of effort) and long term success (trades) has hurt his team more than helped and flies in the face of conventional wisdom of today's hottest coaches and the professional and collegiate level.
On Monday night (March 2nd) the Mavericks lost a game to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder are one of the worst teams in the league, and Mark Cuban freaked out. Like a lover spurned, he complained to the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram about his teams lack of effort, preparation, and focus.
Here is a great quote: "But let's just say I wasn't happy with our preparation, execution or effort. Not only did it look like we had no idea what we were doing, but we did it without effort. The effort and energy, on both sides of the ball, by each player will decide their future with the Mavericks."
He is threatening to cut anyone and everyone on the team for lack of effort. But the game was at Oklahoma facing a young team; young teams receive the biggest bounce from playing at home; one of their players had a triple-double (how's that for playing your heart out?); and lastly it is just one game.
His comments did as he hoped, at least in the short term. His team played harder, more physical, and beat the Spurs at home on Wednesday night.
Tim Duncan said after the game "They were real physical and I felt I got fouled on a couple things. But everybody feels like they get fouled sometimes. I tried to play through it, then started compounding by missing layups and missing shots. Frustrating night."
Physicality is a result of effort and hustle. So in the short term, Mark Cuban's comments helped. Let's look at the next night:
Loss to the New Orleans Hornets 104-88.
Jason Terry says "We just ran out of juice," Terry said. "It wasn't a lack of effort. There just wasn't enough juice left in the tank."
So they over-expended the night before to get a win and then mailed in the game the following night because they were too tired.
This is completely predictable. High level athletes play hard every night. They don't play their hardest, because that leads to exhaustion. But they do play hard; emotional intensity can cover up fatigue but it can't beat exhaustion.
And last night the Mavericks were exhausted. They hung with New Orleans for the first half but were simply fast-breaked to death in the second half.
When Mark Cuban freaked out he made his team's emotional balance and energy levels out of balance and their performance became very erratic. They played hard to beat a solid competitor but no one can play 100% every night and they pooped out the next day.
This season already we have seen the Celtics lose to the Clippers and the Lakers lose to the Kings. But good owners don't interfere with their team. The Celtics owner didn't blast his team because of one loss to the Clippers.
Bob Kraft interfered with his team in the 1990s and the Patriots were a failure. He shut up, hired a good talent-evaluator/game planner, and his team improved.
Do you even know who the owner of the Spurs is? I don't, because he doesn't chastise his team after every loss.
Phil Jackson, coach of the Lakers, wrote in his book More Than A Game that he liked to let a team struggle to find its identity out on the court. He never panicked during games and would let his players sort it out themselves during the action. This breeds leadership, focus, and team work.
His results have been phenomenal. Specifically, it is the Laker's second unit that is helping them win so many games. They have played together, know their roles, and have an identity.
Mark Cuban needs to stop interfering with the team building that is trying to happen. Maybe the Mavericks don't have a loud locker-room leader and he is trying to make up for it. But there are countless examples of owners who interfere too much and hurt their team.
Also, he shouldn't have traded Devin Harris for Jason Kidd. At point guard, youth beats age. Especially when that age has played over 1,000 games. That was a panic trade. Everyone in LA wanted Andrew Bynum traded for a short term solution. Instead he has grown and matured and is part of the long term solution in LA.
As an author I welcome all feed back, criticism, and thoughts on the effort-level swings of the Mavericks. Specifically, was it predictable?
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