It’s been less than four years since Dallas owner Mark Cuban dismantled a championship team for the mere chance to pursue Dwight Howard as a free agent. It didn’t work out, of course, with Howard instead eventually choosing to sign with the Houston Rockets, Cuban’s chief rival.
Since Howard spurned Dallas, Cuban and the Mavs have taken repeated personal shots at the Rockets, often using the media in an attempt to drive a narrative against the Rockets being an elite destination for marquee players.
But with the Rockets wrapping up a “gentleman’s sweep” against Cuban’s Mavs in just five games, it feels like an appropriate time to go back to the tape and examine the validity of Cuban’s arguments.
Let’s take a look!
Cuban’s allegation (July 18, 2013):
The Dallas Mavericks will be better off in the immediate future because they missed out on Dwight Howard, allowing them to sign several other free agents, owner Mark Cuban said. “I think we’ve put ourselves in a spot where we’re in a better spot than we were at if we got just the one max-out deal,” Cuban told ESPNDallas.com during the Mavs’ summer league game Wednesday night. “I think it’d be better shorter and longer term. I don’t want to make that sound the wrong way. I think we’ll be better this year because we added five good players or more.”
Verdict: Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington and Sam Dalembert — three of the four main pieces that Dallas ultimately used that space to sign — are no longer even with Cuban’s team. Monta Ellis, the fourth, is a probable free agent this summer. And having Ellis as arguably the team’s top option has led to 8th- and 7th-place finishes in the West for the Mavs in his two seasons in Dallas.
Cuban’s allegation (October 31, 2013):
“Obviously, he made a mistake in judgment,” Cuban said with a laugh when asked if he could blame Dwight Howard for choosing young James Harden as his key running mate with the Rockets over older Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks. “Do I blame him? No, that’s what young kids do. They make mistakes in judgment.”
“You choose teams,” Cuban said of what he believes is a sound strategy for free agents. “You don’t choose players. If he made a choice off of an individual player, yeah, he made a mistake. You choose teams. You choose organizations. You choose coaches.”
Verdict: Dwight Howard chose a team and organization that’s finished 4th and 2nd in the West in his two seasons in Houston, winning an average of 55 games per season. He’s also currently in the second round of the playoffs. The Mavs have averaged 49.5 wins per season since, resulting in 8th- and 7th-place finishes, and were dispatched in the first round both times. Oh, and did we mention that the second exit for Cuban’s Mavs came directly at the hands of Howard?
Cuban’s allegation (August 22, 2014):
“It says a lot about their approach more than anything else. They just have a different understanding and approach to chemistry than we do. Some teams, and that’s not just the Rockets, just put together talent and the talent takes care of itself. We think chemistry matters. When Carmelo came to visit us, there was no chance that we were going to put him in someone else’s jersey number and put it on the outside of the arena. That’s not our style.”
Verdict: Mr. Chemistry dealt for Rajon Rondo after his Mavs started the season 19-8 and appeared to have one of the great offenses in league history. Including the postseason, the Mavs then went 26-22 in games Rondo played, barely eclipsing .500. There’s also the matter of Cuban stripping down his roster after their 2011 championship run, all for the chance of going after Howard the next summer. Meanwhile, the Rockets are currently starting four of the same five starters (Howard, Harden, Ariza, Jones) they did opening night, with the only absence due to injury (Pat Beverley).
Which team is the one that values chemistry, again?
Cuban’s allegation (September 29, 2014):
Cuban on Daryl Morey’s comments that if players want to win a championship they need to go to Houston: “I’m not sure how he would know that.”
Verdict: Ask Howard, the same guy for which Cuban tore apart a championship team to pursue.
Cuban’s allegation (November 22, 2013):
“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.”
Verdict: The minimum ticket price on the secondary market to get into Rockets/Mavs playoff games at Toyota Center was roughly $100/ticket. Meanwhile, tickets for Sunday’s Game 4 in Dallas were offered for below $40/ticket on StubHub, selling for well below face value. Perhaps Cuban should be more concerned with his own ticket affairs.
Cuban’s allegation (April 17, 2015):
“[The biggest difference is] practice time. There’s no more predictable team than the Rockets. You know exactly what they’re gonna do,” he says. “But James Harden is so good. That’s what analytics have begot. Right? Predictability. If you know what the percentages are, in the playoffs, you have time to counter them. Whether you’re good enough to do it is another question. Because they are very talented, and James Harden, I think, is the MVP. Because that’s not a very good team over there.”
Verdict: The “Predictable, not a very good team” 4, Mark Cuban’s group 1.