Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has developed quite the reputation as a front-office cowboy. As if trading for James Harden directly prior to the 2012-13 season wasn't enough, Morey managed to shed all kinds of salary with a slew of moves in the 2013 offseason.
Then he landed Dwight Howard, the most coveted free agent of the summer. In celebration of that huge signing—and to rub salt in his opponent's wound—he gloated over it via text message to none other than Dallas Mavericks owner and outspoken billionaire Mark Cuban.
According to ESPN's Tim MacMahon, Morey taunted Cuban directly after signing Howard. And he did it by asking for a trade involving Dirk Nowitzki! Yes, Dirk, No. 15 on the all-time scoring list and the greatest player in Mavericks history.
After Dwight Howard signed w/ Houston, Rockets GM Daryl Morey sent Mark Cuban text asking about dealing for Dirk. Cuban took it as a taunt.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) November 23, 2013
That's a low blow. The Mavericks had been interested in acquiring the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, but Houston successfully wooed Howard in yet another coup for Morey.
When asked about the inflammatory text, Cuban made it sound like he wasn't surprised by it and simply brushed it off. As he told Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News, "They didn’t make an official offer. They just asked if we’d trade him. About three hours after Dwight signed. It’s just something rivals do."
But at the same time, Cuban was acutely aware that Morey was talking some major trash in text form. He doesn't fault Morey for gloating, but Cuban threw in a minor insult for good measure:
I don’t blame them. That’s fine. But payback is a bitch. I kept the text...Now, I’ve brought it on the record just to have some fun with it now that we’ve played them twice we can help them sell tickets next time. I think they need help. Just to build the rivalry up.
Cuban can sling arrows with the best of them. You're not selling tickets. You need help. It sounds like he wants to send Morey to attendance rehab.
As of Nov. 23, a glance at the attendance records reveals that the Mavs are in fact drawing over 1,700 more fans per home game than the Rockets. However, looking to road attendance, the Rockets are sixth while the Mavs are 20th, so perhaps fans at large would prefer to watch Houston with Howard and Harden.
It would seem safe to assume that nothing irks Cuban more than not getting what he wants. He's a dot-com billionaire who can often be found cheering boisterously for his Mavericks from courtside seats.
He has also made unsuccessful bids to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers and, according to Dina ElBoghdady of the Washington Post, he's currently taking on the Securities and Exchange Commission. It's all in a day's work.
It appears that there could be a Texas-sized front-office rivalry developing between Houston and Dallas, and mild-mannered Morey clearly has no reservations about stoking the fiery Cuban.
Morey spent time in the Boston Celtics' front office before becoming Houston's GM. The MIT grad is also a fixture at the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. At the 2009 conference, ESPN's Bill Simmons called him the "hottest celeb" who was "hounded by MIT students as if he were Britney among the paparazzi. I dubbed him Dork Elvis."
At that conference, Morey and Cuban also sat next to each other on the same panel, so perhaps they're not actually at each other's necks. They even chatted together before a 2011 game and seem quite genial (even if the cameraman does not know who Daryl Morey is).
Nevertheless, it's always dangerous to poke a bear, and now you can be sure than Cuban is plotting some sort of revenge on his in-state rival, if for no other reason than to sell tickets because the poor Rockets need the help.