- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS -- Mark Cuban considered the trade inquiry from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey to be a taunt.
There obviously was no way the Mavs would deal Nowitzki, who has a no-trade clause in his contract and has vowed to finish his career in Dallas. This seemed to be a case of Morey rubbing the Rockets' win in the recruiting battle for Howard in Cuban's face.
"Definitely. And I don't blame them," Cuban said Friday. "That's fine. But payback is a bitch."
Cuban mentioned Morey's presumably sarcastic text to Nowitzki at the time, but the Mavs' star wasn't as miffed about it as his boss.
"I wasn't really worried about it much, to be honest," Nowitzki said after Dallas improved to 9-4 with a win Friday night over the Utah Jazz. "I guess it stays longer in Cuban's mind. To me, it was kind of in and out. We were frustrated at the time, but I think then we did some great moves, signing Jose [Calderon] first and then Monta [Ellis] and the rest of the gang. So I didn't even think twice about it and then kind of moved along my way. I guess Cubes doesn't forget that easy."
Cuban called the trade offer "just something rivals do," comparing it to his inflammatory comments about San Antonio's River Walk during a 2006 playoff series. Cuban added that he mentioned the text to reporters "just to build the rivalry up."
And then Cuban, whose Mavs lost in Houston on Nov. 1 and rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter at home to beat the Rockets on Wednesday night, took a couple of jabs.
"They were bad for so long, it wasn't really there, other than that one playoff year," Cuban said of a rivalry with the Rockets. "But now they've got good people. I think there's more of a rivalry building.
"It's still early in the season for that. But now that we've played them two times, we can help them sell tickets next time. I think they need a little help."