- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is at high risk to be fined by the league before the month is out.
So says Mark Cuban.
In an interview with ESPN.com this week to reflect on David Stern's 30-year run as NBA commissioner, which ends Feb. 1, Cuban said he has been telling Stern for months that he is determined to get dinged one last time before his longtime foil leaves his post.
"We talk about it all the time," Cuban said. "I'm going to have one final fine before he leaves."
Reached Thursday in London, where he is attending the Brooklyn Nets-Atlanta Hawks game at the O2 Arena, Stern said of Cuban's plan to get fined: "I know he is trying, but our muffin fund coffers are overflowing."
The outspoken owner made the comments in a lighthearted manner before the Mavericks had even left for Los Angeles, where they blew a 17-point lead with under five minutes to go Wednesday night to suffer a crushing 129-127 defeat to the Clippers. A heated Cuban then walked onto the floor after the final buzzer at Staples Center to chastise the referees who worked the game, actions that could potentially trigger a league review.
Cuban has been assessed 19 league fines that were made public, 13 of which were triggered by either criticizing referees or interacting with them in ways the NBA deemed inappropriate.
And those known fines have cost Cuban in excess of $1.8 million in fines during his 14 years of ownership. The most expensive was the infamous $500,000 that Cuban was docked in January 2002 for declaring he wouldn't hire then-NBA head of officiating Ed Rush to manage a Dairy Queen. The most recent was a $50,000 fine assessed in January 2013 after Cuban responded to a home loss to New Orleans by tweeting: "Im sorry NBA fans. Ive tried for 13 years to fix the officiating in this league and I have failed miserably. Any Suggestions ? I need help."
Yet Cuban has mostly praise for Stern with slightly more than two weeks to go before Stern's longtime deputy Adam Silver takes over and the longest tenure of any commissioner in North American professional team sports comes to an end.
"One reason that I truly respect David is that he followed the rules," Cuban said. "He didn't want to be king. He wanted to be successful and make the NBA successful. He was less concerned with his legacy than with creating results for the NBA. He knows that the results will stand the test of time and define his legacy."
Cuban said he would give Stern "an 85 to 90" out of 100 when grading his three decades in charge and said his only bone of contention with the commissioner during his time in the league -- besides the state of officiating -- was the amount of money invested in China at Stern's behest in the continued pursuit of globalizing the NBA brand.
"I like David a lot," Cuban said. "David is focused. He's smart. He's driven. He's goal-oriented. He's relentless. Those are good qualities in a lot of respects. I think, for the most part, he's done a lot of great things.
"He's always been receptive [to me]. We kind of have two relationships. There's the public relationship about the officiating. And then there's the business side. On the business side, we get along great.
"On the officiating side, that's probably the one thing I'd say he's failed miserably on, but I understand where he's coming from, because he doesn't have a horse in the race. Win, lose or draw, as long as the business of the NBA is good, he's happy. I obviously have a completely different perspective, and that's where we clash. He doesn't care who wins. That's the difference, because I do.
"But on the business side, we've agreed far more than we've disagreed."
Cuban, meanwhile, contends the pressure looming for Silver as he moves into the hot seat Stern has filled since Feb. 1, 1984, isn't nearly as daunting as many league observers suggest.
"I don't think it'll be hard," Cuban said, "and that's a compliment to David. There aren't 50 things that you have to fix. What's gonna happen with the next TV deal? What's gonna happen with the franchises that need new arenas? What's gonna happen with expansion? There are challenges, but they're obvious. David has left things in a good position."
Cuban continued, "David is very self-aware. And I don't think I can emphasize this enough: That's a huge compliment when you tell someone in a position of authority that they're self-aware. Look at Major League Baseball. Bud Selig has no self-awareness whatsoever. He goes on rants, he goes on missions, he takes people on. And he's not self-reflective. I think David is the exact opposite. He will raise the hammer and be forceful, but if something isn't working, he'll back down."
Earlier this season, in an interview on NBA TV, Cuban was equally glowing about Stern, saying, "I mean, David and I have banged heads a couple times, [but] the truth be told, David Stern made me. Nobody knew who Mark Cuban was until he started fining the hell out of me and sent me to work at Dairy Queen. So he made my job of selling tickets a lot easier.
"David took us internationally. ... David was a big proponent of digital -- the Internet -- [and] I remember sitting down talking to him. Even before I bought the team, he invited me in to talk about streaming and the Internet. I helped him set up his first Twitter account. He was always open-minded about expanding into new areas, and you really have to respect that.
"Despite the fact that we disagreed on a lot of things, we really agreed on far more. I'll miss him. I really like David."
10hSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann