Mark Cuban's Jilted Owner Act Is Going to Scare off Future NBA Free Agents

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 3, 2013

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and beloved Seinfeld character George Costanza both found their own unique ways to handle failed relationships.

Costanza struck first by inventing the "it's-not-you-it's-me" routine. Cuban, though, seems to have the exact opposite approach—it's not me, it's them.

Like a scorned lover not willing to accept reality, Cuban chastised a superstar player who opted not to join forces with his Mavericks. Again.

The player at the receiving end of his comments this time around was Dwight Howard. Howard flirted with five teams in free agency this summer, a group that included Cuban's Mavs, before ultimately deciding to ink a deal with the Houston Rockets.

Cuban called Howard's decision a "mistake in judgement," via ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon, and added that "anybody who doesn't come [to Dallas] is an idiot."

This had nothing to do with Cuban's pitch or the young stars and intriguing coaches that awaited Howard in Houston. Howard made a mental error, and that's why he's not suiting up in Dallas.

It wasn't Cuban's fault; it was Howard's. Or was it?


We Are Recording, Mr. Cuban

Are people secretly taping these conversations with him? Can he not see that flashing red light as he's talking?

Word travels fast in NBA circles. Type "NBA Gossip" in a Google search, and it finds 28.4 million results in less than a half-second.

It's easy to think of the NBA as this monstrous corporation, thanks to its global audience and billion-dollar revenues. And in some senses, it absolutely is that. Between players, coaches, executives, media members, concession-stand workers and others, the NBA workforce is gigantic.

But if you focus on just the players alone, we're talking about a very select brotherhood. There are 30 NBA teams and, at most, 15 available roster spots—that's 450 people for the non-math majors out there.

Maybe their water-cooler meetings look a bit different than ours, but they happen nonetheless. And should anything happen to slip through the cracks, there are thousands of bloggers and millions of social media users more than ready to relay these messages to players.

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 16:  Media interviews Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers before the NBA All-Star Practice in Sprint Arena at Jam Session during the NBA All-Star Weekend on February 16, 2013 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houst
Bill Baptist/Getty Images

None of them is apparently needed when it comes to Cuban, though. He's more than willing to put his foot in his own mouth.

He has every reason to be bitter. After disbanding his 2011 NBA champion roster, he went on a two-year superstar search that came up empty. No offense, Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert—Cuban's eventual offseason additions, which only entered Dallas' equation if it thought long enough to come up with a plan E.

Deron Williams, a Dallas native, chose the Brooklyn Nets over the Mavericks last summer. Cuban admitted his team wanted Williams, but he tried to downplay the loss, telling ESPN Dallas' Jeff Caplan that future cap concerns had tied his hands in the pursuit:

That was a challenge that we had because we want to win, and everybody talks about Dirk's window. Well, not only would it have been difficult to add players, then it also would have been difficult to trade players

Maybe that explains why the league's most involved owner skipped the team's meeting with Williams to film his reality show Shark Tank. Cuban's absence, Williams told B/R's Howard Beck who was then with the New York Times, played a role in his decision to re-sign with Brooklyn.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 20:  Deron Williams #8 of the Brooklyn Nets reacts during the game against the Chicago Bulls during Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center on April 20, 2013 in New York City. NOTE
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Cuban, not surprisingly, isn't willing to accept his role in William's choice. "Did you see that episode of Shark Tank I filmed that day?" he later asked MacMahon. "It was amazing!”

So, let's recap real quick. Howard's an idiot for not joining the Mavericks. Cuban wanted Williams, but he didn't really want him.

NBA free agents, are you booking your flights for Dallas yet?


All in Good Fun

Cuban, of course, has an excuse for his latest rant. You know, besides the fact that he's not even the one at fault.

His comments about Howard's decision—which he also said was just "what young kids do," via Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning Newswere all just a big joke, via MacMahon:

I always like to have people to mess with. I throw out a few jabs every now and then to have fun. You know, wins and losses are serious, but this is still fun and I'm going to have fun. And if you guys don't like it, that's your problem.

Because obviously comparing a 27-year-old's judgement to that of a child is absolutely hilarious. And if you don't agree, then that's you own fault.

We're the ones to blame, remember, not him.

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 12: Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks relaxing before his team faces off against the Golden State Warriors on April 12, 2012 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

If he's just looking for a rise, then I guess it's mission accomplished. While Howard hasn't responded publicly, Cuban's at least got the news cycle flowing.

Is that honestly worth the potential damage he faces down the line?

Players have different reasons for deciding where to take their talents—financial reasons, proximity to family, even the chance to compete for a title.

Right now, Cuban faces a really tough sell to free agents. Dirk Nowitzki's not getting any younger. The prospects on this roster are as exciting as a Jacksonville Jaguars game.

But he'll have a hard time even finding the option to make that pitch.

Who's flying to Dallas just to get tossed under the bus on their way out? LeBron James got it from Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert's keyboard when he migrated to South Beach in 2010; think he's looking for a second serving from Cuban's mouth next summer?

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks on against the Brooklyn Nets game at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downl
Al Bello/Getty Images

I get it, Mark. You're upset.

You broke up a championship squad way sooner than necessary, tried your best in some failed star searches, and now you're left with a rag-tag roster facing an uphill climb to the eighth seed.

It sucks, but life sucks sometimes. You get over it, and you move on. Burn too many bridges, and you'll have nowhere left to go.

NBA free agents are watching. Really good ones, too. The kind that could actually restore championship hopes within your organization.

But they're listening to all of this. They remember the Williams disaster, and they're gawking at those Howard comments.

Just because you think this league needs villains doesn't mean you have to be the one playing the part.

Your roster's going to pay the price for your words. Frankly, it already has.



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