Dallas Mavericks: Jerry Buss

ESPNDallas.com will compare the Mavericks, Lakers and Rockets in five facets -- other than money -- that could play a role in Dwight Howard's free agency decision in a one-per-day series: owners/front office, coaches, co-stars, supporting casts and franchise tradition. We focused on Chris Paul last week.

A strong argument can be made that glitzy Jerry Buss, who oversaw 10 of the Lakers’ titles, was the greatest owner in NBA history.

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Mark Cuban joins ESPN Dallas GameDay to discuss the Mavericks' plans, the free-agent market and what possibilities there are for Dallas.

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It remains to be seen how well Buss’ adult children can fill his shoes after his death in February.

Six Buss siblings share the family’s majority stake in the Lakers, but there are two power brokers. Jim Buss runs the basketball operations; Jeanie Buss is in charge of the business side.

The brother and sister certainly didn’t see eye to eye when the Lakers had to hire a coach following Mike Brown’s firing five games into the season. Jeanie Buss was reportedly stunned that Phil Jackson, the 11-time champion coach who happens to be her fiance, wasn’t hired after he expressed a strong interest in returning to the Lakers bench. Jim Buss opted for Mike D’Antoni, a decision that seemed worse with every “We want Phil!” chant at the Staples Center throughout the Lakers’ disappointing season.

The Lakers’ ownership situation, a strength for so many years, now has at least some sense of uncertainty, although it’s a safe bet that they continue spending as big as they see fit, especially with massive TV money coming. Mark Cuban is a sure thing, at least when it comes to being an owner with an intense dedication to basketball and winning.

General manager Mitch Kupchak remains in the role he has filled for more than a decade after being groomed by the legendary Jerry West. He’s one of the few GMs in the league who can match the Mavs’ brain trust when it comes to creativity.

The deal that brought Pau Gasol to L.A. – and essentially made the Lakers’ last two titles possible – resulted in so many grumbles around the league that it probably played a role in the infamous “basketball reasons” veto of the Chris Paul-to-the-Lakers trade.

And, while the Steve Nash deal hasn’t paid dividends for the Lakers so far, it was pretty impressive for Kupchak to create it essentially out of thin air. The Lakers gave up two first-round picks, two second-rounders and the trade exception from the deal that shipped the basketball corpse of Lamar Odom to Dallas. Oh, and Kupchak also orchestrated the four-team deal to acquire Howard.

After July, Kupchak was the frontrunner for Executive of the Year. The Lakers’ mediocre season – maybe the most disappointing in NBA history, given the hype – messed that up, but the man has quite a track record as a GM.

Of course, the Cuban/Donnie Nelson combo has pulled off some pretty big blockbusters, too. Just not under this collective bargaining agreement.

In hindsight, a strong argument can be made that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey did the best job remodeling his team between the last two seasons.

Morey, an MIT-educated stats geek given leeway to do his job by relatively anonymous two-time championship owner Leslie Alexander, did a phenomenal job collecting assets and pouncing when James Harden became available.

Morey doesn’t have the skins on the wall that the Lakers’ and Mavs’ decision-makers do, but there’s no doubt he’s one of the brightest up-and-coming basketball minds.

EDGE: Mavs. There’s no threat of front office tug-of-wars in Dallas, and they’ve proven they can sustain success.

Mark Cuban pays respects to Jerry Buss

February, 18, 2013
2/18/13
11:10
AM CT
Shortly after the news broke about longtime Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss dying Monday, Mark Cuban paid his respects via Twitter.

"RIP Jerry Buss. Your encouragement and support along with your stories of staying true to yourself had an enormous impact on me," Cuban tweeted.

Buss, whose teams won 10 NBA titles during his ownership tenure, had been hospitalized for cancer. He was 80.

Chronic taxpayers will pay heavy price

November, 28, 2011
11/28/11
9:30
AM CT
The tentatively agreed upon collective bargaining agreement certainly could have been more damaging to the Dallas Mavericks' immediate goals, as Tim MacMahon writes in his column today. Had the more punitive luxury tax structure taken effect for this season, Tyson Chandler's chances of re-signing with the Mavs would be dangerously low.

Instead, there will be a two-year grace period before the old dollar-for-dollar system is replaced by a more aggressive financial hammer (SI.com obtained official terms of the tentative deal). As an example, Mavs owner Mark Cuban paid $18 million in luxury tax last season on an $88 million payroll ($18 million over the $70.3 million luxury tax threshold). Under Year 3 rules, Cuban would have coughed up $38.5 million in luxury tax.

Still, Chandler's return isn't a slam dunk. He'll have plenty of suitors and big bucks to sort through. But, the Mavs at least know that they can bid high and have two years to live under the old luxury tax rules and then deal with ways to chop salary before the Year 3 tax hike kicks in.

However, there is one new deterrent that takes effect immediately and will make even the most free-spending of owners take notice: A substantial tax increase will slam chronic taxpayers, as Mavs owner Mark Cuban has been since the luxury tax came into existence.

Under the new CBA, tax rates for teams that are taxpayers in at least four out of any five seasons increase by $1 at each increment. For example, for a team salary up to $5 million above the tax level, repeat offenders will pay $2.50 instead of $1.50 for each $1 over; $5 million - $10 million above the tax level, offenders will pay $2.75 instead of $1.75; $10 million - $15 million above the tax level, the penalty is $4.25 instead of $3.25, etc.

Owners such as Cuban, the Los Angeles Lakers' Jerry Buss and the New York Knicks' James Dolan, three of the league's most egregious luxury taxpayers, will have to find inner-discipline and begin planning for payrolls that don't exceed the luxury tax, or at least once in a five-year span.

The Mavs' payroll will rise above the tax line again this season (expected to be around $70 million) with or without Chandler. In 2012-13, they have about $44 million stamped for six players (not including Chandler) and three of those are low-wagers Corey Brewer, Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones. Jason Kidd and Jason Terry come off the payroll after this season, and clearly there will be significant holes to fill, and that could again mean a payroll that will challenge the tax line.

In 2013-14, $41 million is earmarked to just three players -- Dirk Nowitzki ($22 million) and Shawn Marion and Brendan Haywood (more than $9 million each). An amnesty clause allowing teams to wipe a contract off the books can help, but again, if the Mavs have Chandler signed to an annual salary of $10 million or more, filling out a contending team around Nowitzki could push the threshold.

The two-year grace period before the new incremental and more punitive luxury tax system takes effect is a big assist for a team like the Mavs. But, the significant tax hike for repeat taxpayers is a twist that can't be ignored by owners, even those that play to win at all cost.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsD. Nowitzki 6.2
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9