It was just 11 days ago that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban very publicly and rudely called a story in The Athletic—which reported that Cuban’s organization was disintegrating from the top down because he’d deputized a loud, narcissistic professional gambler/bitcoin weirdo to make basketball decisions, to the outrage of his long-tenured GM, highly respected coach, and generationally talented star—”total bullshit.” Well, in the intervening time-frame—again, less than two weeks—said GM is gone, said coach is now with the Pacers, and said gambler seems to have won his power struggle, the result of which is that Cuban, not a basketball-knower, now has even fewer experienced voices in his organization to curb his apparently incurable impulses to make actual basketball decisions.
The latest basketball decision is the hiring of former Mav Jason Kidd, generally thought of as an uncreative, dour weirdo whom you don’t want in your organization. Kidd was bad in Brooklyn, bad in Milwaukee, and there’s no real reason to think he’ll be any better in Dallas while managing a misshapen roster and a tricky-to-please star creeping closer to free agency. But don’t worry: Cuban has buffed out the rest of the organization with experienced veterans who will bring a diverse array of perspectives so everything can remain balanced and productive. Just kidding, it looks like he’s running the 2011 team back.
Stocking your staff and front office (Michael Finley is heavily rumored to be taking over upstairs) with some Guys You Remember is never really what you want. Take it from me, a sadsack fan of a useless franchise whose own owner is notoriously hands-on. It never ends well, unless you luck into trades a pair of generational prospects, and even then, the process is not without its pain points. There’s something distinctly Divac-ian about this hiring pattern, but the only real difference is that there are stakes.
Everyone is talking a lot about the 2018 draft right now. DeAndre Ayton and Trae Young’s heroics have elevated their statures within the league, and the draft-night trade of Young for Luka Doncic, once thought of as a no-brainer steal for Dallas, is being re-evaluated in light of the Hawks’ unlikely path to the Conference Finals. But make no mistake, Doncic is still the gem of that class and if you had to pick any player to build a team around right now, most people would probably still pick Doncic. The point is that the Mavericks have struck out thus far in building a roster around him that can sufficiently take advantage of his talents, their one-time second option is now just a big potato, and their draft cupboard is bare. You can’t fuck this up! Maybe Finley and Kidd will command respect from Cuban and earn the latitude to make their own decisions, and maybe those decisions will be the right ones. There’s no way to know, but other teams have walked down this path before, and it’s a treacherous one.