Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Will Mark Cuban's nightmare come true?
By Jeff Caplan
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is staying busy these days. He has written his first e-book, "How to Win at the Sport of Business," and he's keeping his TV career relevant with a surprise appearance as co-anchor on a recent "Entertainment Tonight." He hasn't ruled out a second stint on the show to promote his book and other non-sports related projects.
It's the sports-related aspects, after all, that are the real bummer. For one, without an NBA season, who knows if the former "Dancing with the Stars" contestant is keeping up his conditioning work on the stair machine outside the Mavs' locker room that he rigorously and religiously attacks prior to every home game?
Remember this? Mavericks fans do, and owner Mark Cuban's worst nightmare would be for Dirk Nowitzki to be injured while playing elsewhere during the NBA lockout.
At any rate, the man his players call "Cubes" needs his non-sports related activities to keep his mind off one worrisome sports-related item -- the growing possibility that his 7-foot franchise forward will suit up for some professional team in Europe. Dirk Nowitzki has told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that he will seek basketball employment overseas soon as the NBA lockout limps closer to a sixth month of basketball inactivity.
"I still can't believe that we're not going to have a season [in the NBA]. I can't see us not playing," Nowitzki told Stein. "But if the lockout still stays strong, I've got a decision to make."
The owner of the first-time NBA champs has been and probably always will be one of the more vocal critics of NBA players participating on national teams during the offseason. Simply, Cuban doesn't want a player he pays millions of dollars to get injured while playing for another team. So, just the thought of Nowitzki shooting one-legged fallaways for Real Madrid or Germany's Bayern Munich surely makes Cuban wig out like Kramer hearing Mary Hart's voice.
Already, examples of NBA players sustaining injury overseas are popping up. J.R. Smith, the acerbic Denver Nuggets shooting guard, injured his knee, at first believed to be quite serious, playing for a Chinese team Sunday. On Tuesday, Turkish media reported that Cleveland Cavaliers center Semih Erden broke his left thumb and will be out at least two months.
Imagine Cuban's angst and the Mavs' misfortune if their delayed title defense -- assuming a partial season is salvaged -- were to begin with Nowitzki on the shelf? Does 2-7 with a sprained right knee ring a bell?
Few players have proved more durable than Nowitzki over his 13 NBA seasons. Still, he has a history of ankle sprains and he suffered a knee sprain last season that knocked him out of nine hard-to-swallow contests. While playing for Germany in this summer's Olympic qualifying tournament, he re-injured his left middle finger that sustained a torn tendon in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Injuries happen. One can occur just as easily, or as freakishly, during an NBA game or a highly competitive and physical Euro-league game or a recreational charity exhibition that players are staging across the country.
As long as the lockout persists, Nowitzki can do as he pleases and he says he will play ball somewhere.
At that point, Cuban will just have to cross his fingers, and maybe ask for a more permanent spot on the ET anchor desk.