Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki on the same team?

August, 22, 2012
8/22/12
3:20
PM CT
Mark Cuban, as he tells it, was this close to trading for Kobe Bryant in 2007. OK, so we've heard that one before. But it wasn't in exchange for Dirk Nowitzki?

"When I was doing 'Dancing with the Stars,' I was taking breaks because I was talking to Kobe’s agent because Kobe wanted to get traded," Cuban said during Tuesday's appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Ben & Skin Show. "Literally, in between 'Dancing with the Stars' practices I thought we had traded at one time for Kobe Bryant. I even talked to their owner [Jerry Buss], I thought we were going to have a done deal and then [Lakers general manager] Mitch Kupchak changed [Kobe’s] mind and brought him back."

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It is absolutely true that Kobe wanted out, even demanded that Kupchak find the beloved Laker a new home. Remember that glum radio interview with Stephen A. Smith in May 2007?: "I would like to be traded, yeah," Kobe said. "Tough as it is to come to that conclusion there's no other alternative, you know?"

When Stephen A. asked Kobe where he'd like to play, Kobe did not deliver a Dwight Howard-like list of options: "At this point I'll go play on Pluto."

The Lakers were smack in the middle of the Shaq-less years and the transition wasn't going well. L.A. failed to make the playoffs in 2004-05 with a 34-48 record followed by consecutive first-round losses. Meanwhile, Shaq won his fourth title in '06 -- at the expense of the Mavs -- to push ahead of Kobe in the ring department at the time, 4-3.

So, Kobe was at an all-time low, and in swoops Cuban feeling rather opportunistic.

Naturally, a deal for Kobe would have to involve an exchange of superstars, Bryant for Nowitzki.

"No," Cuban said, "it wasn't Dirk for Kobe."

Wow, so Cuban had all but filed the paperwork with the league office on a deal that would have paired Kobe and Dirk on the 2007-08 Mavs?

"Yeah, but they [the Lakers] were smart and didn't let it happen," Cuban said. "But Kobe was upset and he wanted out -- and this was all public, I don't think this is anything new -- and the owner was resigned to that fact. I talked to the owner, and then I went back and practiced my Rumba."

Now recall the Mavs' state of mind after the 2006-07 season? A dark, dark place. A year removed from the colossal collapse in the Finals, Dallas won a franchise-record 67 games, yet as the West's No. 1 seed lost in six games to the No. 8 Golden State Warriors coached by former Mavs coach Don Nelson.

OK, so just who would the Lakers have agreed to take back in a trade for the great Kobe if not Dirk? The assets the Mavs had the time could have included: Devin Harris, Josh Howard, Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse, Erick Dampier and DeSagana Diop.

Amazingly, a year later the Lakers pulled off a stunner, trading for Memphis forward Pau Gasol, and Kobe and the Lakers win two more titles. Steve Nash and Dwight Howard will wear the cherished purple-and-gold this season and odds are being placed on L.A. surpassing the 1995-96 Bulls' 72 wins.

The Mavs finally won their first title in 2011. Now, totally rebuilt around Dirk, the Mavs face a stiff challenge to climb back.

"Point being that teams go through cycles and teams go through ups and downs and these teams -- it's unfortunate that it's the Lakers that made the comeback as opposed to the T-Wolves, right, and maybe the T-Wolves will be good this year with Ricky Rubio, we'll see -- but it's just the way it works," Cuban said.

In 2007, both Kobe and the Mavs were looking for a jolt. If a deal was really as close as Cuban makes it sound and it didn't involve Dirk going to L.A., then this no-trade should go down as one of the great what-if scenarios in NBA history.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Dalembert 6.8
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksS. Dalembert 1.2