ESPN's lead NBA broadcast team of play-by-play man Mike Breen and analyst Jeff Van Gundy will call the Christmas Day season opener at the American Airlines Center where the Dallas Mavericks will raise their championship banner and then take on the team they beat in six games in the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat.
Breen and Van Gundy will then hop on a jet plane and fly to Oakland, Calif., to call the final of five gift-wrapped televised games (on ABC and ESPN) when the Los Angeles Clippers take on the Golden State Warriors.
On Monday, Breen and Van Gundy took part in a media conference call and the former NBA head coach who once, while the head honcho of the rough-and-tumble New York Knicks, clutched for dear life to the lower leg of Alonzo Mourning, a man more than 14 inches taller and 80 pounds heavier, in the middle of a full-on donnybrook, was at his open-mic best.
Van Gundy absolutely destroyed the NBA for interfering in the Chris Paul deal that would have sent the All-Star point guard to the Los Angeles Lakers and brought a nice little haul to the struggling New Orleans Hornets franchise as well. Mike "No Holds Barred" Van Gundy then called the league's rush to start the season on Christmas a Day a pure "money grab" (more on that in a later blog).
When I asked the unequivocal color man for his impression of Mark Cuban, from the owner's stunning vow of silence during last season's championship run to the his philosophical shift in accordance with the new collective bargaining agreement, the rambunctious rambler did not disappoint. Here's his extended take -- and interruption free -- to my one simple question:
I don’t think you could ask for a better owner than Mark Cuban. If you’re a coach or a player and you’re a serious coach and serious player about winning, he’s committed to that process. Now, are there certain instances along the way you would say, 'Hey, I wish the guy would take a backseat?' I’m sure there is if you worked for him. But, you have to take the whole package and his entire package is unquestionable, one of the top owners in all of sports, not just basketball.
I don’t believe, though, that him not speaking last year had anything to do with them winning it all. When they were down 15 in Game 2 [to Miami] to go down 2-0, I don’t think him not talking for a while had anything to do with them coming back. Down 2-1 and going into Game 4, I don’t think that had anything to do with him not speaking along the way.
He did hire the right guy in Rick Carlisle; Rick Carlisle’s been an outstanding coach. They made great personnel decisions, getting [Shawn] Marion and Tyson Chandler, keeping [J.J.] Barea to form that nucleus; and now I give them a lot of credit where they’re under pressure to overspend for their own free agents, to quote, defend their title -- which there really isn’t anything like that, this is not WWE wrestling, although in the last week or two it appears that we’re [the NBA's] inching that way – I would say that I like their basketball courage to stay disciplined financially to try to keep as much cap room open for the free-agent stars that are coming available next year.
Does that mean they’ll get any of them? Absolutely not, but to get Lamar Odom for nothing and to still retain some financial flexibility, I think they’ve done very, very well. I’m very impressed with their discipline in this period of frenzy.
Part II of the Van Gundy interview is coming shortly.