Tyson Chandler and Mark Cuban's (semi-mythical) Willingness to Spend




It is widely believed that mark Cuban would spend any amount of money to win, but it’s not, strictly speaking, true. MFFLers, as they are called, will remember the Steve Nash saga not entirely with fondness. Others will remember being furious that the Mavs balked on picking up Al Jefferson, who they could have had for two first round draft picks and nothing—before they knew how that one eventually turned out.

In reality, Mark Cuban is a born dealmaker who hasn’t had much luck making deals. Mark Cuban’s willingness to spend to win---ends where his need to be able to spend a lot more, in a pinch, to win a lot more begins.

Don't take this the wrong way--Cuban's been a terrific owner. And, obviously, he has spent a huge amount, more than nearly everybody else. But there are limits that we seldom take into consideration.

What I'm saying is, one thing we think we know about Mark Cuban is that he will not spend himself out of flexibility. That was the deal with the Al Jeff non-trade. Great player, definitely the right price, but with the cap hit that would be the last move the Mavericks could make in the Dirk years.

They went instead for exactly the guy who’s at issue now, Tyson Chandler. It’s easy to forget the real reason they signed T-Chan. After having whiffed with the walking cap space that was Erick Dampier they chose a guy who had the same thing a year from now. That’s what they were going for. Yeah they new Tyson could ball, but no one expected him to make it through the season. That's because they didn't sign T-Chan, they signed the hope of the player they could GET with T-Chan. Not, at the time, your LeBrons and Wades (the dream of the Erick Dampier waivability movement), but your Deron Williamses, your Dwight Howard.

It wasn’t that they thought Chandler would be better than Jefferson—though I certainly felt at the time that Chandler's skills made more sense for the Mavs--it’s that they were always going for the big prize.

Is that an ominous sign for Tyson Chandler-as-a-Mav? It might be.

After all these years, I still don’t know how I feel about the Nash non-signing. Nash, of course, went on to be the perfect point guard for a crazy, and very successful system, and a two-time MVP, but it’s hard to regret it too much. Sure, Nash, though not an explosive offensive player most nights, could outscore J-Kidd sitting down. But it’s hard to see Nash taking on Kobe on the last play of two playoff games and winning the defensive battle both times. It’s even hard to imagine the Mavs making the Finals with Nash, but with Shawn Bradley at center, for all Dampier’s weaknesses.

But letting Tyson go, I think, would be an unqualified mistake.Some of it has to do with how old everybody is. More of it has to do with a bird-in-the-hand kind of thing. We know that Tyson Chandler's exact skill set is capable of turning a group of poor one-on-one defenders into a tough defensive unit. Do we really need anything else?

A lot of writers last summer were gushing over all Dallas had to offer LeBron because, in those days, we believed LeBron was actually going to entertain offers that didn’t involve him playing with his best friend who didn’t mind doing the hard work at the end of the game. As it happened, that’s not how it played out, it’s not how it played out for Carmelo and Amar’e who were New York or bust and it probably won’t be how it plays out for Chris Paul, who sounds pretty New York or bust himself.

Even if that weren’t true, however, even if we weren’t living in the basketball age of ganging up, the truth is getting a top-10 player like Deron Williams or Dwight Howard in their prime is STILL a pipe dream. Everybody wants to get that guy. Why the Mavericks? You think Dwight Howard’s salivating about winning one title with Dirk and then hanging out for three years with Dirk and Jet way on the back-end of their careers, Kidd retired, and Roddy Beaubois? He isn’t.

Cuban is a businessman, and great at it. The business side of his blog is routinely illuminating, I read it though I don't know a thing about business. The thing is, part of what makes him so good is the fact that he, like many successful business men, is a huge opportunist. We all remember when he suddenly jumped into the Rangers race last year. Was it because he realized, out of nowhere, that he was deeply passionate about Rangers baseball?

No. As he posted himself, at the time, taking the Rangers sale to court meant rearranging the terms of what WOULD be sold along with the Rangers, including a lot of debts and taxes that were now optional. It meant he could position himself to profit enormously from the Rangers’ new, incredibly lucrative television deal without any of the negatives. That’s why he did it. And even then, he, much richer than anyone bidding against him and without any salary cap to speak of, had his limit.

I am not 100% certain that Mark Cuban realizes that there are some sales he can’t make--or, at least, that sometimes it's better not to count on that. Sure, if you can trade T-Chan, as much as we all love him, for Dwight Howard, you do it in a second. And if you’re Mark Cuban, maybe just that possibility is appealing enough to stay flexible. The Dirk Window is closing. Maybe Mark Cuban’s staring into the abyss and he wants the future in his hands more than a big Chandler contract would allow it to be if there’s an injury, a retirement, if somebody’s production falls off a cliff.

And maybe this is all a negotiating ploy by Chandler’s people-- and a fairly good one at that. But there’s not a single impact player on the Mavs roster who’s a spring chicken any more except JJ Barea and Beaubois’ untapped potential. I’ve got a feeling that if the Mavs let the future get in the way of the present—and it’s a real possibility-- they’re going to regret it for a long time.

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