Mark Cuban miffed stars hurt overseas
DALLAS -- Having seen promising young guard Rodrigue Beaubois go down playing for France and now seeing face of the franchise Dirk Nowitzki nursing an injury and out of Dallas' lineup after playing for Germany, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he will continue the uphill battle to make international basketball off limits to handsomely paid NBA players.
Cuban has argued that NBA owners should not be saddled with the full risk of their players suiting up for their countries in the offseason, and he said other owners agree with him but aren't as vocal in their opposition.
"It's just the epitome of stupidity that we would allow ourselves to be used so other corporations" -- as Cuban calls the Olympics -- "can make tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars," Cuban said. "There's some guys sitting at the Olympic headquarters going, 'Those dumb-asses, we're taking all their best guys for nothing.' "
Cuban knows he's unlikely to bring change to the system, but he said he will continue "fighting so that we'll pull out."
Cuban has repeatedly voiced his displeasure to NBA commissioner David Stern, but his complaints have fallen on deaf ears. He said he tried to make it a topic of discussion during the collective bargaining agreement negotiations over the summer, but that attempt also failed.
"The commissioner's office won't open it up to discussion. They just make a unilateral call," Cuban said Monday. "They'll take calls about it, but won't put it up for a vote. Hopefully, I can get him to move it to a vote at some point."
Mavs third-year guard Beaubois is just now regaining full strength and confidence from a broken left foot that required two surgeries and robbed him of virtually all of last season. Beaubois, Dallas' first-round pick in 2009, fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot in France preparing for the 2010 World Championships.
Nowitzki, the reigning NBA Finals MVP, followed his heart and played for Germany last summer in a failed bid to advance his country to a second consecutive Olympics.
On Monday, Nowitzki, who Cuban is paying $19.1 million this season, missed his second of an unusual four-game scheduled layoff designed to put him through training-camp style workouts to help strengthen his sore right knee and bolster his overall conditioning. A veteran of international competition, Nowitzki said Saturday that in hindsight, playing in last summer's European championships was a mistake.
"I understand from Dirk's perspective," Cuban said, sympathizing with his star's devotion to his country. "We should never put our athletes in that position. For some sports the Olympics are very, very important. For basketball, it's meaningless. It's not that they're not decent games. All things being equal, it's fun to watch us play Argentina and Spain, but it would be just as fun if they were 21 and under."
Nowitzki called playing in the 2008 Olympics the fulfillment of one of two lifetime goals. The other was winning an NBA championship. For much of last season, Nowitzki wavered on whether he would play for Germany, especially, he had said, if the Mavs went on a long playoff run.
Ultimately, he chose to play, saying he wanted to help a new crop of German players experience the Olympics as he had.
But, Nowitzki, 33, also acknowledged the physical toll of international play after the grind of a long NBA season. Upon Saturday's announcement that he would sit out four games, Nowitzki said the combination of last season's championship run, followed by playing in the European championships in late August and then the lockout-delayed start of this season skewed his typical training regimen and left him atypically ill-prepared to begin the rugged, 66-game schedule that had the Mavs play their first 14 games in 23 days.
"Playing in the Euros, looking back now was obviously not the right decision, but, it was a decision I made for my country," Nowitzki said. "But it definitely didn't help me get ready for the season."
The 14-year veteran has already hit several milestones this season, logging his 1,000th career game and becoming the 23rd player in NBA history to reach 23,000 career points, but he has done it on a bothersome right knee and while averaging just 17.5 points a game, his lowest mark since his second season.
The Mavs' coaching and training staffs decided on Friday that the best course of action was to hold the remarkably durable Nowitzki out of a week's worth of games.
On Monday, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle and Cuban said Nowitzki could miss more games if deemed necessary.
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.