Dallas Mavericks: Phil Jackson
A strong argument can be made that glitzy Jerry Buss, who oversaw 10 of the Lakers’ titles, was the greatest owner in NBA history.
|Mark Cuban joins ESPN Dallas GameDay to discuss the Mavericks' plans, the free-agent market and what possibilities there are for Dallas. |
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.
DALLAS -- Be careful what you wish for, Mark Cuban.
You say you miss the days of witty repartee with Phil Jackson and Shaquille O’Neal? Want another high-profile Laker with whom to go back-and-forth?
OK, Kobe Bryant is game. But the Black Mamba doesn’t play nice. And he’s hell to deal with when he’s mad, a mode he promises to be in throughout the rest of the season and what he predicts will be a long Lakers playoff run, picking up motivational ammunition from Cuban’s mouth this week.
“Amnesty THAT,” Kobe tweeted Sunday afternoon.
Doesn’t sound like Kobe wanted to hear about hypotheticals, huh?
What more needed to be said after the living legend put up 38 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 103-99 win over the Dallas Mavericks in a game that was critical to both proud franchises’ playoff hopes?
Those actions spoke loudly, especially while Bryant scored 14 points with a high-degree-of-difficulty, including 5-of-5 shooting in the fourth quarter to allow the Lakers to pull out the win.
|After battling it out against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, Dirk Nowitzki said he doesn't like the idea of consecutive seasons where the Mavericks have to scratch and claw for the No. 8 seed and also addressed his future. Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss. |
Oh, Kobe did throw one verbal jab at Cuban after his dominant performance in Dallas.
“We've always kind of marched to the beat of our own drum, but I'm sure if [Cuban] wants to amnesty Dirk, that's something we'll entertain,” Kobe said, essentially offering his fellow future Hall of Famer a spot on the Lakers’ roster next season.
Of course, the thought of Cuban using the amnesty clause to cut ties with Dirk is preposterous (and impossible after the Mavs used the one-time clause to dump Brendan Haywood last offseason). Just like it’s laughable to even imagine the Lakers avoiding a massive luxury-tax bill by slashing Kobe’s $30.5 million salary this summer.
But there was Cuban making that hypothetical suggestion during a Friday appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM. He claimed Sunday that he simply used the league’s highest payroll and highest-paid player as an example in a discussion about the collective bargaining agreement, but that comment came in response to a question about whether Cuban was surprised by the state of the Lakers.
Gee whiz, it’s such a stretch to think Cuban just wanted to get under the skin of the NBA’s glamour franchise, right?
The Mavs’ brash billionaire owner readily admits that verbal sparring ranks among his favorite pastimes. And high-profile Lakers have been among his favorite sparring partners over the years.
This falls right in line with the “Shaq Albert” video and referring to Jackson as Jeanie Buss’ “boy toy.”
Well, it’s on a much higher intellectual level than those digs -- just try calculating the luxury tax that kicks in next season -- but it’s another classic Cuban shot at the Lakers.
And this one backfired.
“Nice to know there is a least one team and their players, outside of the Mavs, that listen to everything I say,” Cuban wrote in one tweet Sunday evening.
He then added another: “But I do have to give props to @kobebryant for a great tweet. #Welldone.”
It took Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki nearly a dozen years to raise the Dallas Mavericks from the ashes of the 1990s to the pinnacle of the NBA as champions.
Just 13 months later, a nearly complete dismantling of the title team has created one of the swiftest falls from grace in league history. In 1998-99, the Chicago Bulls, having moved on from Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson, followed a second three-peat with a 13-37 record in the lockout-shortened season.
The Mavs' downward spiral is most similar to that, ironically, of the 2006 Miami Heat, the Dwyane Wade-led team that rallied from an 0-2 hole to beat Avery Johnson's squad. The next year the Heat finished a mediocre 44-38 and were swept out of the first round of the playoffs. The Mavs ended this lockout-shortened, 66-game schedule at 36-30 and were swept in the first round by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The following year, the Heat won 15 games. It would be a stretch to think the Mavs will crater to such depths next season, but with a roster now in full rebuild mode -- and one that will not include Jason Terry or Jason Kidd or Deron Williams, for that matter -- Dallas could face a long, hard climb to extend the franchise's record 12-year playoff run.
So where has everybody gone from the title team that partied deep into the South Beach morning last June?
Let's take a look.
Still around: Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood, Rodrigue Beauobois, Dominique Jones
Coming back?: Ian Mahinmi (unsigned free agent), Brian Cardinal (unsigned free agent)
Long gone: Tyson Chandler (signed as free agent in 2011 with New York), J.J. Barea (signed as free agent in 2011 with Minnesota); Caron Butler (signed as free agent in 2011 with L.A. Clippers), Corey Brewer (traded in 2011 to Denver), DeShawn Stevenson (signed as free agent in 2011 with New Jersey, traded to Atlanta), Peja Stojakovic (retired)
All but gone: Jason Terry (agreed to terms this week with Boston), Jason Kidd (agreed to terms this week with New York).
And then Phil had to up and retire after the postseason sweep by Cuban's boys. Now Jackson is probably hanging out in Montana, you know, doing that whole "meditate and ... smoke peyote or whatever he does there," thing that Mavs coach Rick Carlisle figured he'd do.
(See, Rick can zing the Zen Master, too).
Carlisle figured Phil would get bored with that lifestyle and eventually get back in the game. Cuban said he hopes he does.
"I miss having Phil," Cuban said before Wednesday's Mavs-Lakers matchup at American Airlines Center. "Phil was fun to mess with. He was smart and he would return volley. I'd volley, he'd return volley, it was like a tennis match. It was fun. I hope he gets back in the league.
"You don't often find the perfect bucket boy."
Ah, the old "bucket boy" comment. Cuban had to go back to 2006 for that one, which he wrote in his blog after Jackson claimed that NBA refs are intimidated by Cuban because he's always sending tapes to the league office to review.
Said Phil: "I know there's a lot of pressure on the refs when they come here because Mark has them review the tapes and send them into the league. And these guys are nervous Nellies when they come in to referee in this building. But they have to do a better job than they're doing. That's not acceptable."
Cuban responded on his blog: "I own Phil Jackson. Not literally of course. That thrill belongs to the smartest businesswoman in professional sports, Jeannie Buss. Figuratively however, the coach formerly known as the Zen Master must now be considered my bucket boy."
The exchanges continued with Phil leaving it this way: "It's just fun to have Mark in the league."
If only Phil would come back...
DALLAS -- Mavs coach Rick Carlisle doesn't really believe this is the end for Phil Jackson.
That has nothing to do with the fact that the Mavs' sweep would be an embarrassing end to Jackson's unparallelled coaching career. Carlisle just doesn't buy that Jackson, who insists he really is retiring for good this time, can avoid the coaching bug.
"My belief is that he’ll retire for a while," Carlisle said, "but I don’t know how long you can go to Montana and meditate and smoke peyote or whatever he does there. I don’t know. He’s going to get bored. And I mean that in an endearing way.
"But, look, we’re talking about the greatest coach in the history of our game."
Jackson's 11 championships as a coach is a record that will probably never be matched. He's also one of the most unique personalities in NBA history.
So is Mavs owner Mark Cuban, and he's been involved in many wars of words with Jackson over the years. But not now.
"I hope he doesn't retire," Cuban said, repeating what he told Jackson after the game. "I think he's great for the league."
He said his peace before Saturday's practice, and it'll cost him $35,000. The NBA announced the fine before today's game.
Jackson's complaints were specifically about the way the Mavs are defending Pau Gasol, which is primarily Dirk Nowitzki's responsibility. Gasol is being held to 13.3 points per game on 43 percent shooting this series.
"You know, I’ve resisted this the whole playoffs, but the NBA used to call a knee [to the backside],’’ Jackson said. “That’s what they call it. You couldn’t lift a knee off the floor to run a guy off the post. And they’re doing it every time. They’re taking him out of the post so we can’t get a tight post play.
"We didn’t complain about it against New Orleans. But the Mavs are doing the same damn thing. And until the league goes back to the rules that they have about playing post play, Pau’s got to move out and face the basket. So we’re kind of resigned that they’re not going to go back to what they used to have as a rule and he’s going to have to go out and face the hoop."
Dirk has been called a lot of things throughout his career. Add defensive bully to that list.
LOS ANGELES – It’s almost as shocking as the Dallas Mavericks seizing a 2-0 series lead against the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center.
Mark Cuban, the Mavericks’ often loud-mouthed owner, came and left L.A. without uttering a single juicy quote.
“Both teams played hard,” Cuban said with a smirk several times, borrowing the creative version of no comment that Rasheed Wallace famously used during a 2003 Portland-Dallas playoff series.
Cuban acknowledges that he is intentionally avoiding saying anything that would end up in the headlines. He doesn’t want to stir it up with the Mavericks performing the best they have in the playoffs since their 2006 Finals run.
“You’ve got to pick your spots,” Cuban said. “There’s ways to make the media work for you. You’ve got to be strategic about it.”
Part of Cuban’s media strategy after the Mavs’ convincing Game 2 win was to politely decline interview requests.
“Gotta get two more wins,” Cuban said. “Gotta get two more wins.”
"I think the league will take a look at it and we'll see what happens," Barea said after the Mavericks' stunning 93-81 Game 2 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers for a 2-0 lead in the second-round series. "It's not a basketball play. We'll see what happens."
With the Mavs having run away with the game in the fourth quarter in large part due to Barea's fearless play, accounting for eight of his 12 points in the quarter, Lakers forward Lamar Odom fouled Barea in the backcourt. Artest then reached out with his right arm and grabbed Barea's face, knocking the backup point guard to the floor.
Artest was hit with a technical, his second of the game, sending him to the showers with an automatic ejection. An elbow to Tyson Chandler late in the second quarter earned Artest the first technical.
The ugly play on Barea, however, could earn the Lakers' starting small forward, who is just 5-of-18 from the floor in the two games, a suspension for Game 3 on Friday night in Dallas.
Barea said he won't play the role of judge and jury.
"I'm not going to get all into that," Barea said. "I'll let the league decide that."
Barea's not the only one thinking Artest likely deserves to sit a game.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson called the face-grab "uncalled for" and thinks there's a good chance Artest will be suspsended.
It's very unlikely that Phil Jackson and Mark Cuban can continue to be peaceful toward each other, but neither threw any verbal jabs during their pregame chats with the media.
Jackson even said that he thought Cuban would be a good owner for the Los Angeles Dodgers, a topic Cuban declined to touch. Cuban resisted several attempts by reporters to get him to discuss Jackson.
The closest Jackson came to jabbing Cuban was saying, "I wouldn't want him behind my bench, but ... " Cuban just laughed when informed of that comment.
Stotts ended up in the spotlight toward the end of the Mavs-Lakers altercation when he tried to play peacemaker by wrapping up L.A. forward Matt Barnes from behind. Barnes, who didn’t know who was grabbing him, responded by knocking Stotts into the nearby courtside seats.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson was critical of Stotts, saying that coaches should only grab their own players in such situations. Stotts hasn’t said a word about the incident, which resulted in the ejections of Barnes, Lakers guard Steve Blake, Mavericks guard Jason Terry and Dallas center Brendan Haywood.
“Not gonna go there,” he said with a smile when approached after the Mavs’ Saturday morning shootaround.
Haywood said he has no idea what he did to earn an ejection other than being next to referee Joey Crawford when he started tossing players.
Terry, who started the altercation with a shove in Blake’s back, found humor in the foul that was downgraded from a flagrant 2 to a flagrant 1 the next day.
“He was already falling,” Terry said. “I just assisted him.”
Mavericks guard Jason Terry and center Brendan Haywood and Lakers guard Steve Blake were also ejected after the incident with 9:23 remaining in the game, but Barnes is the only one who was suspended.
NBA executive vice president Stu Jackson cited Barnes "for escalating an on-court altercation and actions following his ejection" in announcing the suspension.
The altercation began when Terry committed a flagrant foul by shoving an off-balance Blake in the back. The league downgraded that from a flagrant 2 to a flagrant 1 after reviewing the incident.
As Blake and Terry exchanged heated words, Barnes ran across the court and escalated the argument by shoving Terry. Referee Joey Crawford shoved Barnes toward the Mavs' bench in an attempt to get him away from Terry.
Mavericks assistant coach Terry Stotts wrapped his arms around Barnes from behind in an attempt to calm him down. Barnes responded by shoving Stotts to the floor, saying after the game that he didn't know who was grabbing him.
"One of their coaches grabbed Matt," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "That's not what you do. You grab your own players. That's kind of the rule of the game."
It isn't clear what Haywood did to merit being ejected.
Jackson, clearly thinking any Cuban working over the refs wouldn't work in the Mavs' advantage, rewound to the 2006 NBA Finals: Mavs vs. Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.
"I think he's toned it down a little bit the last few years," Jackson said. 'That Miami Finals really was a tough one to swallow. I think Wade averaged about 25 foul shots a game. You couldn't even touch him. That was really tough to swallow and I think he understood there's kind of a pecking order in this league and you keep your mouth shut at times.''
By pecking order, Jackson meant coach's can back at officials from the sideline, but ownership sniping from the courtside seats doesn't help the cause.
In that series, Cuban was fined $250,000 by the league for his Game 5 outburst. He was cited for "several acts of misconduct" committed after Dallas lost 101-100 in overtime. Furious with several calls, Cuban went onto the floor to vent directly to official Joe DeRosa, then stared in the direction of commissioner David Stern and a group of league officials in the stands. Talking to the media afterward, he wasn't shy with the profanity.
Cuban wasn't biting back Saturday night when told of Jackson's comments.
"I got the point, but I already got fined for that. I'm not going to touch it again," Cuban said. "My opinion hasn't changed on that series and it never will, nor will the facts."
Asked if his handling of that situation might be different today as opposed to five years ago, Cuban said, "Answering that requires me to get fined."
More Phil and Cuban shenanigans:
Jackson said he'll miss Cuban when he's done coaching after this season. Cuban said: "I told him him and Jeanie [Buss] can come over for popcorn and movies."
Jackson said he'd like to join Cuban and Charlie Sheen (Cuban has engaged Sheen about doing a show on his HDNet cable network). He said: “I’d like to introduce the movies or something like that … I’m all about musicals.”
Cuban responded: "Two Men and a 7-footer?' Phil can be fun, you know. We'll just have Phil in a corner going, 'Winning!' Give him a quart of tiger blood and see what happens."
Jackson was also asked what Cuban could do as owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers: “I think that he lost out on his bid with the Cubs and I think he would have an impact in baseball like he does here," Jackson said. "I think the owners in baseball are a little afraid of him thoug. They don’t want him in there.”
“Well, he’s a maverick,” Jackson said.
To be fair to media brethren everywhere, the odd scene surely was quite the attention-grabber. It isn't everyday you see a superstar return to the court after a game to conduct a self-workout.
"I don't want to think about it. I really don't," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said when asked about Bryant's personal training session. "I mean, whatever. He felt the time to improve his shot was right away, so he was right back at it."
Bryant didn't practice with the team Friday at the American Airlines Center, although he was present, but did not speak to reporters. He took care of that in Miami, post-game and post-post-game workout. Friday was one of his regularly scheduled days off from practice, Jackson said.
The Lakers play the Mavericks Saturday night at the American Airlines Center, a game that could a long in deciding the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. The Mavs hold a 1.5 game lead over the Lakers and are up two games in the loss column.
And, give Bryant some calculated credit here, too. Miami has a practice court at its home arena just as the Mavs do. So, Bryant could have gone there in private. Perhaps, he wanted to be seen. Almost immediately, Twitter blew up with numerous reporters still at the arena working, documenting this oddity. Soon, updates were flying. Twitter nearly blew up with 140-character reports as Kobe hit the 60-minute mark and beyond on the court.
And suddenly, no one was talking about the Lakers' 94-88 loss that snapped their eight-game win streak and ended the Heat's five-game losing streak. Instead all the focus turned to Kobe's 8-of-21 shooting night and his dazzling, driven attention to detail.
The opportunity to get back on the court like that is rare on the road. Teams typically fly out after the game to their next destination. But, the Lakers stayed overnight in Miami and flew to Dallas on Friday. They held a 3 p.m. practice at the AAC.
Asked if he had any idea that his teammate had returned to the court for nearly 90 minutes and what it tells him about that teammate, Pau Gasol answered: "What teammate?"
"Obviously, he is very focused and, I don't know," Gasol continued. "He felt like he probably wanted to get that extra shooting or probably extra frustration [out]. We could have won, but we didn't, so there was some frustration, disappointment."
Gasol was then asked if he's ever laced up the sneakers like that after a game and hit the hardwood.
"No, no," Gasol said. "Usually I'm hungry after a game, so I need to hurry and go to dinner."
For example: "We've got to finish out these  games and go from there," Mavs point guard Jason Kidd said. "You can't worry about if you're 2 or 3." (Actually, only coach Rick Carlisle has not downplayed recently the importance of seeding implications as L.A. comes to town Saturday night.)
The two-time defending champions had no problem Friday saying they do worry about being 2 or 3.
"I just don't want Mark [Cuban] to have another homecourt game against us, that's all," coach Phil Jackson said jokingly before turning a bit more serious prior to the Lakers' practice at the American Airlines Center. "We want homecourt advantage and that's important."
Dallas and L.A. play the second of three games this season Saturday night and the Mavs can take the season series with their earlier win at home on Jan. 19. A win Saturday would move Dallas 2.5 games ahead of the Lakers in the Western Conference standings and three games up in the loss column.
However, winning the season series would only be good for confidence-building for the postseason. In the case the Mavs and Lakers are tied at the end of the regular season, the Lakers will own the tiebreaker because of a recently changed rule in which head-to-head matchup takes a backseat if one team is a division winner. The Mavs won't catch the Spurs in the Southwest Division and the Lakers hold an 11.5-game lead in the Pacific Division.
So, the Mavs will have to win the thing outright if they want the No. 2 seed.
In a Mavs-Lakers playoff series, homecourt edge would seem far more critical to Dallas than championship-tested, Kobe Bryant-led L.A. Then again, as Kidd said, seeding hasn't always played out for the Mavs. During their run to the 2006 NBA Finals, Dallas won Game 7 at San Antonio. As the No. 2 seed last season, the Mavs were bounced by the Spurs in the first round after splitting the first two at home. And no one needs reminding what the No. 8 seed Golden State Warriors did to the No. 1 seed Mavs in 2007.
Still, a seventh and deciding game at the Staples Center would clearly place the Lakers as heavy favorites. L.A. is 2-0 over their last two title seasons in Game 7s at home, including last years NBA Finals clincher over the Boston Celtics.
"We care, we care. It's important to finish as high as possible, so yeah, we care, we care a lot about seeding," Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. "I think the last two championships we've won we always had homecourt advantage and we had some tough series. We understand playing at home is important."
Don't take any of it too seriously. Cuban surely doesn't.
"I like him a lot," Cuban said. "Anybody who can intellectually give you some [expletive] instead of ‘Your mother wears army boots’ quotes, you’ve got to like that. He takes it and then he gives it back."
Cuban's most recent jab at Jackson was referring to him as "Jeanie Buss' boytoy" in response to pretty tame comments from the Lakers coach, who had said that the Mavs would have a tough time replacing injured Caron Butler.
Ms. Buss, Jackson's girlfriend and a Lakers executive who is the daughter of owner Jerry Buss, saw the humor in the quip. She tweeted Tuesday that she missed her "boytoy Phil," adding "thanks Mark for his new nickname."
Cuban said he knew Buss "would laugh her ass off" and that Jackson was just a convenient subject to have some fun with the media.
"You know, I didn’t say it because I thought I really wanted to mess with Phil," Cuban said. "I said it because I wanted to mess with these guys [in the media]. It’s like saying to yourself, 'How can I get everybody in the entire sports media to use the word boytoy?'"
Cuban said he'd miss Jackson if this is his last season coaching in the NBA. But he figures Jackson won't be tough to keep tabs on.
"I’ll go to boytoynation.com and see what he’s up to," Cuban said, cracking himself up.
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