On Monday afternoon, Bill Simmons posted a wide ranging podcast with Bryan Curtis, the media writer at The Ringer. Towards the end of the hour-plus production, Curtis, a long time Mavericks fan, leads the conversation towards Dallas and Simmons leapt at the chance to discuss our once-strong franchise.
This transcription has been shortened some for clarity but I recommend listening to the whole thing starting at about the 1:05 mark of the podcast.
Bryan Curtis: There are NBA teams which are genuinely good and real and then there are teams that are a Zach Lowe column of a team: “what if they did this, and this and traded this expiring”... this isn’t even a thing, you know?
Bill Simmons: I’m glad you brought up Mark Cuban, by the way. You could argue that since he won the title he’s been one of the three worst owners in the league. You’re talking about all these basketball decisions and really, none of them have worked. They basically wasted the last five years of Dirk’s career; the only real chip they have is Dennis Smith, Jr. who I don’t even know if he’s going to be an All Star, he might be a “good stats, bad team” guy. On top of that you have this reprehensible office situation and all these stories that have come out about the culture of the Mavs. These staggeringly crazy stories... He’s got a million different things going on, he won the title, maybe he took his eye off the prize. That team is super dysfunctional.
Curtis: I was there for the Mike Iuzzolino “Infinity War” Mavericks when they were giving that Sixers team that had the all time lowest wins total a run every single year. I would go to Reunion Arena and get opposing team’s autographs... to see them win a title and then Mark Cuban go “We’re not going to run this back, we’re just going to try to out-smart the rest of the league.” What? You finally had success with this awful franchise, that to Cuban’s credit he made into a real franchise, and they aren’t going to bring anybody back... their biggest thing has been free agents they didn’t get!
Simmons: DeAndre Jordan!
Curtis: Imagine if they got him! Now everyone’s like “Even if they had got him they wouldn’t have done anything.”
Simmons: They’ve really drafted poorly during the entire Cuban run. Poorly. Flat out poorly... By the way now that we’ve talked about this long enough enough there’s a guarantee there’s a MavsMoneyball.com thread about how wrong we are. What’s the thread where Cuban has assassins that come after media people who question him? What site is that? It’s one of those sites. He’s got the trained snipers ready. Just look at the draft picks!
Curtis: Dirk’s a nice guy. Other superstars wouldn’t be that nice, they’d say “get me out of here, I want to win titles.” Remember when Dirk came back overweight after winning that title? He was so happy to win that title, he is good to go. To crack the Cowboys rushmore in Dallas, think about how big you have to be.
Simmons: Cuban did an incredible job his first 12 years and the last six, just no. A lot of the advantages they exploited last decade a lot of teams do now.
Curtis: At the end of the day their best move was Don Nelson drafting Dirk Nowitzki.
They discuss more, including a flyover of the Mavericks back office culture problems (which we’ve discussed at length) and touch on the uniqueness of the 2011 title team and how it all came together perfectly at exactly the right moment.
Obviously, we were extremely amused to be labeled (probably accidentally) as the site of Cuban protectionists, but Simmons and Curtis nail the core issue with the Mavericks that the local media and much of the fan base don’t seem to understand: the Dallas Mavericks are very bad as a result of years of bad decisions and the path back to relevance is not an easy one. Needless to say, this site hasn’t been too friendly with some of the directions the Mavericks have gone with Cuban at the helm. Cough.
With hindsight as our ally, it’s fair to say that most of the decisions since the title have not panned out in a way that benefited Dallas. From breaking up the 2011 title team, to nearly every player selected in the drafts after 2005, trading for Rajon Rondo, to letting Tyson Chandler walk a second time and getting hosed by DeAndre Jordan... they led Dallas directly to the lottery.
It’s not fair to lay all the fault on Cuban; for example, it’s been reported that Dirk Nowitzki was the loudest voice for bringing in Rondo. Yet he insists on being the team’s unofficial spokesperson to this day so he bears the brunt of the responsibility.
In the NBA, there are very few shortcuts to success. The Mavericks and Cuban must realize this soon, because attempting to be playoff relevant next year may set the franchise back even further.