Mark Cuban Doing the Right Thing. Chicago Bulls Doing the White Thing.

Mark Cuban Sermonizing

The nation’s most popular billionaire was talking stocks, rumors, and the NBA. Mark Cuban has a unique spin on the coronavirus disaster. Through one prism, he looks at it as a capitalist who has made his fortune by way of free-market enterprise. For Cuban and his Billionaire Boys Club cohort, the virus is a punch to the gut. The economy is paralyzed. But it is Cuban’s belief that the virus will have generous consequences. It will make those at the top, our bosses, kinder, gentler and more thoughtful. The scarcity of goods and services will have changed their heart. Now more than ever they will feel our pain instead of being solely motivated by the bottom line, stock earnings, profits, and bonuses. This crises has been so devastating, Cuban thinks it will change minds.

I’m skeptical that the right now is going to turn heads and hearts, that there is such a thing as an empathy transplant. When things return to semi-normal life selfish rich people will regress to the mean. Their selfishness will be as reflexive as it always is. Over the past few weeks I’ve seen more than one tenant holding up a piece of paper that her landlord tried to force her into signing to put off an eviction. It’s not legal. But there they are, bullying anyway. Cuban is more romantic than I.

“You have to put employees over shareholders” Cuban told CNBC. He hopes that in the future investors will search for companies that are compassionate and prioritize them and a longer term strategy. While Cuban was outspoken about companies that send their workers back too soon- don’t do it- I couldn’t help but wonder if he was indirectly including the NBA in that as well? Is that what he is advising his fellow owners? Don’t rush. There’s always next year.

“I think people are naturally optimistic right now in terms of the market. I just don’t think they are really factoring in what we’re going to see on the other side.” His skepticism has kept him from buying stocks, while he waits for the consequences once we get past the social distancing phase of the disease. In other words, no one knows what things are going to look like June 1st and beyond.

For his part, Cuban has lobbied the powerful in Washington to support workers in this crisis.  Controversially, he believes that companies that are given government aid to help with their financial losses be prevented from buying back stock.

And there’s one other thing: the American psyche. Will it bounce back right away? Or, will it have to be nurtured back into the old way of doing things because this event has been so scarring? “Long term I’m hopeful. Short term I’m uncertain.”

As for basketball, Cuban told 93.7 The Fan “If things really go our way, it’s not inconceivable to me- and this is me being hopeful and not being scientific- that we could potentially play games in early June. I think we’re coming back. I can’t tell you exactly when but this is purely a science and doctors things…All I know from all the science and everything that I’m reading, I think we’re making enough advances that…we can start planning a comeback.

“If I had to bet, and this is more a guess than a bet, I’d say early June is when you see teams start to take the field and maybe play games just for television.”

Black GM’s Don’t Matter. Oops, They Do.

The Chicago Bulls had a job opening and before filling it they disseminated a list of the candidates. 7 were white . One was Asian. No African Americans on the list. I guess you can look at is no token candidate so at least they are not pandering to the audience. But seriously Bulls? Not one African American candidate was good enough to interview? Assistant GM’s of color were hot about it. “This is a slap in the face. Their worst is still being considered over our best.”

The Bulls are in negotiations with Denver GM Arturas Karnisovas to take over John Paxson’s job as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations.  Paxson had 17 years to make an impact and the biggest achievement on his record is the drafting of Derrick Rose, and to a lesser extent, getting out from under the freight of Luol Deng’s contract.

Paxson however isn’t really leaving. He’s going to become an advisor. Meaning, Karnisovas will have Paxson critiquing him from the next room. Karnisovas should insist Paxson leaves the building. For good. A new marriage doesn’t work with the ex-husband living in the garage.

Paxson’s record is his record. He fired Tom Thibodeau. He said he did it because Thibs message had starting to run thin with the players. Not exactly untrue. Thibs had a way of exhausting players with his grueling practices and short rotations. But it was also true that Paxson and Thibs had a frosty relationship and Paxson wanted his own guy in there: former NBA shooter, KG teammate, and college coach Fred Hoiberg.

It was a disaster, particularly when Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade, two veterans who wanted to win, took the game in their hands. Both knew how to win. Hoiberg knew how to develop players. It was a tense situation without a reasonable compromise. Rajon Rondo was the peacemaker, if you can believe that.

Karnisovas has Paxson’s mistakes to deal with. Yes, the Bulls have the third lowest payroll. But Otto Porter has a $28 million player option for 2020-21. Zach Lavine is owed nearly $40 million over the next two seasons, no opt-outs. Karnisovas has to work around those salaries.

Every organization is haunted by their best player. For the Bulls, it’s Michael Jeffrey Jordan and the decision in 1998 to let him, Phil Jackson, and Scottie Pippen walk. The next year, the Bulls won 13 games. Then 17 games. Then 15 games. Then 21 games. You get the picture. They lucked out with Derrick Rose in 2008- the shy local kid- but then Thibs left Rose in a playoff game during garbage time and Rose ruptured his ACL in 2012 which triggered an injury merry-go-round.

After the Rose draft these have been the Bulls first round draft picks over an 8 year period. Only one player, Denzel Valentine, is on the roster.

  • James Johnson, Kevin Seraphin, Jimmy Butler, Marquis Teauge, Tony Snell, Jusuf Nurkic, Bobby Portis, Denzel Valentine.

Karnisovas was an international scout for the Rockets before he became the Nuggets GM, replacing Masai Ujiri. His draft picks were as follows: Rudy Gobert, Doug McDermott, Nikola Jokic, Emmanuel Mudiay, Jamal Murray, Juan Hernangomez, Malik Beasley, Donovan Mitchell, Michael Porter, Justin Jackson. There are two ways to look at his scouting list. He saw the potential in Rudy Gobert, Nikola Jokic and Donovan Mitchell. All three have been All-Stars. But he traded Gobert and Mitchell.

Giving up Donovan Mitchell is the one that hurts. The Nuggets could have easily slid 6-4 Jamal Murray to the two and made room for Mitchell at the point. But every player Karnisovas drafted is an active player. No busts.

That’s what the Bulls are hoping for. The Nuggets philosophy. They cleared cap space in 2017 and gave Paul Millsap a max deal which turned heads. But the Nuggets were young and were desperate for the leadership and toughness that Millsap provided. In addition, three of Karnisovas draft picks developed. Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley.

That’s what the Bulls need right now. Excellent scouting. Development. Free agent acquisition. And a black GM, something Karnisovas has promised.