Mark Cuban has a lot of white men angry at him, particularly Texans. Fuming at his insolence, Texas politicians and billionaires are talking about a law to require the national anthem to be played at all sporting events. It is so Texas that a cohort of white men are more upset at Cuban’s anthem policy than they were at the insurrection at the Capitol that killed 5 and injured 140 and victimized those who watched it on television. But it’s Texas where hypocrisy lives.
As for Cuban and his basketball team. Depending on the night, the Mavericks are either mediocre on offense, or atrocious on defense. They miss Seth Curry’s shooting; no one can make threes and they are trending for the wrong reasons in that particular category. More bottom feeder-ism: the Mavs are dismal at rebounding, assists, and steals. They give up nearly 114 ppg. No one on the Mavs has a defensive rating lower than 112. (Nets star James Harden has a Defensive Rating of 112). Having a bunch of James Harden’s on your team on the defensive side of the ball isn’t encouraging.
Add up the past 3 seasons and the Mavericks have a cumulative winning percentage of 48%, while the best team in their conference, the Lakers, have a winning percentage of 61% despite being a lackluster 37-45 during the 2018-19 season. Mark Cuban’s I.Q. is revered in a way that Rob Pelinka’s is not. Cuban has been at it a lot longer but Cuban and Pelinka have the same amount of championships. One.
Decisions and consequences. They make you or break you.
Decision #1. 2018 NBA Draft. Cuban had a choice in front of him. The Mavericks had the 5th pick in the draft and had to decide between Trae Young or Luka Dončić. Both had enormous upsides. Because Dončić was a professional who had already led a team to a championship he had the more polished game but Young’s potential was Steph Curry-like.
The Mavs drafted Trae Young but traded him to Atlanta for Luka Dončić. In the 2018 draft class, Dončić has scored the most points, Trae Young is 2nd, Collin Sexton (Cleveland) is 3rd. (Dončić, Porziņģis, and Sexton are the only 3 players in the entire 2018 draft to have scored over 3,000 points.)
Consequences. Luka has the second most rebounds in his draft class, trailing number one pick DeAndre Ayton by 113. Trae Young leads the class in assists with 1,421 and Luka is second with 1,200. Both players have played over 5,000 minutes but Collin Sexton has played the most minutes overall, 5,477. Trae Young is a better 3-point shooter and free throw maker but Luka has the higher Win Share.
Luka Dončić wins the popularity competition. In All-Star fan voting Dončić has the 8th most votes trailing Bradley Beal, Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James. Trae Young has the 19th most votes.
When he traded Trae Young to Atlanta, Cuban made the right decision for his organization. He traded for the face of the franchise in Luka Dončić and he receives an A. But can he find secondary talent?
Decision #2. Kristaps Porziņģis was an unhappy player. He wasn’t going to sign an extension with the New York Knicks so Cuban came in and acquired Porziņģis, who was rehabbing an ACL injury. Porziņģis was willing to sign an extension with the Mavericks to stabilize his future and in the summer of 2019, he signed a 5-year $158 million contract.
Mark Cuban was hoping to get the same 7 footer who showed agility, touch, shot-blocking, and perimeter shooting while in New York. In NYC, there were red flags though. Porziņģis was injury-prone. A 7 footer, he only shot 43% from the field. His lack of efficiency was always disregarded because he blocked nearly 2 shots per game and he was a decent 3-point threat. But what Cuban needed was a second scorer to accompany Luka. In that, Porziņģis has failed miserably. Either he has been injured, or he and Luka just don’t mesh. Their chemistry isn’t fluid and when they play together it feels more like a my turn your turn song and dance instead of an organic sense of fitting together.
Consequences. Mark Cuban rolled the dice with Porziņģis, gambling on an injured player he didn’t see play until after he recovered. Cuban wasn’t given the opportunity to assess if the Porziņģis-Luka combo was going to work. He pushed all his chips to the center of the table and crossed his fingers. Now he has an overpaid player who is often injured, a big who only gets to the line 3 times per game. Porziņģis three-ball is anemic in the 4th quarter, 23%, and is worse when the quarter is ending, 18%. Porziņģis is going to give you 20 but he’s a 7-3 player who has never averaged 10 rebounds in his career. For his size, he should make more than 55% of his layups.
Porziņģis contract for the next two seasons- over $30 million- doesn’t hurt the Mavs in the short term. They have $30 million coming off the books at the end of this season with Tim Hardaway Jr., James Johnson, Boban Marjonavic’s expiring deals, and Josh Richardson’s player option. But Luka’s extension is coming up and Mark Cuban has to build a contender. They are not even close.
Cuban gets a C- for the Porziņģis trade. The trade didn’t help the Knicks either. They acquired Dennis Smith Jr. who was just traded to the Pistons, Wesley Matthews who is on the Lakers, and De Andre Jordan who is with the Nets. Porziņģis was the prize, the others were pieces who have since blown in the NBA wind.
Decision #3: The National Anthem. Mark Cuban discovered a lot of black folk aren’t down with the national anthem. Why?
- The anthem’s author, Francis Scott Key was a racist.
- The anthem clings to ideals that those militarized by the police find offensive since they are excluded.
- This idea that you are a patriot if you love the anthem, yet your patriot-ness is excused when involved in racial violence is American hypocrisy.
But still. Most of Cuban’s paying customers are white. It’s impressive that he would remove a song that so many in his home state adore. But mostly when the anthem is being played it’s irrelevant. Many talk over it, text, go get food, laugh at memes, ignore it, and/or belt out the wrong words. Nevertheless, it’s a symbol of white patriotism.
The anthem hasn’t been played at Mavericks home games this season and frankly, no one really cared. It could have continued that way until Cuban decided to remind people of what he was not doing. Everyone got all riled up because he was perceived to be disrespecting the flag. Cuban didn’t blink. He said he would play the anthem again but he was sensitive to those who find the anthem troubling when they are continually oppressed by the great white patriots of America.
This is the best of Mark Cuban. Doing something people don’t like and standing in there and taking the punches. He has always been an original thinker and doer who goes his own way. In response, he said, “Our hope is that going forward people will take the same passion for this issue and apply the same amount of energy to listen to those who feel differently from them.”
Mark, don’t hold your breath. A+ for your anthem decision tho.