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Morgan Howen

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Mark Cuban is not who we thought he was going to be

This past week has been the dried-out cherry on top of an expired whipped cream sundae of a 2022-23 season for the Dallas Mavericks. They entered it one game out of the play-in tournament a shade under two months after trading for Kyrie Irving. It would be easy to blame him for Mavericks’ fall, but the descent was in progress long before his arrival. Dallas’ struggles begin at the top with the team owner Mark Cuban who entered the NBA pissing off the establishment and bringing the energy of youth and change.

On Wednesday, Cuban gave unplanned media availability to give his side on how contract extension talks with current rising New York Knicks star Jalen Brunson fell through last season. He denied what Brunson told Turner Sports’ Chris Haynes, which was that those in the guard’s camp believe he would have accepted a four-year, $55.5 million extension.

He was eligible for the same offer that Dorian Finney-Smith had signed. According to Brunson, the Mavericks didn’t get back to him. In February, Brunson claimed that the Mavericks were willing to extend him that offer, but by then he was regularly starting and playing well.

Cuban told the media that Brunson was not willing to sign the extension in January, and the main reason was the involvement of his parents.

“We thought, ‘cause JB kept on telling us he liked being here. JB never gave us an indication,” Cuban told the media. “It was only the parents that were the issue.”

Cuban even went so far as to read from his phone to the media what he claims were text messages from Mavericks’ General Manager Nico Harrison and Brunson’s agent Aaron Mintz. Messages that allegedly contained Brunson’s father Rick — currently a Knicks assistant coach — wanting his son to sign an $18-$23 million per year deal. Brunson signed with the Knicks over the summer for four years at $26 million per year. (New York has a better record than the Mavs this season.)

The Mavericks had every reason for not wanting to re-sign Brunson in 2022 both in the winter and in the summer after his spectacular postseason run. In the previous postseason, Trey Burke was brought off of the bench before him in the third quarter of Game 7 of the Mavericks’ first-round loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Brunson didn’t play 16 minutes in either game, and was not a regular starter for the Mavericks for a significant portion of the 2021-22 season.

Cuban would have been correct to be hesitant about how much money was offered to extend Brunson, but he went so low as to blame his parents for wanting their child to sign the best contract possible. Regardless of the 100 percent truth of what happened, putting them at fault is a complete abdication of responsibility.

All of which is further evidence that the man who made his fortune by getting out of the dot com bubble before it burst is not the man to revolutionize sports.

Cuban purchased a franchise that already had stars — Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, and Michael Finley who made his first of two All-Star appearances one month after the purchase.

Cuban was so radical back then that he doubled down on centers like Raef LaFrentz, Erik Dampier, DeSagana Diop, and Brendan Haywood. Dampier and Diop were a part of that 67-win team that lost to the Golden State Warriors in the first round. Much of Nowitzki’s career was wasted until the Mavericks caught lightning in a bottle when they swept the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011 and went on to beat the Miami Heat in the finals.

The Mavs didn’t win another playoff series until last season — largely because Brunson carried them through the first round when Luka Dončić was hurt. As great as this new and exciting Mavericks culture has been, it has never resulted in a successful big-name signing, trade, or much winning after 2011.

Cuban’s on-court failures, however, pale in comparison to what happened in the office. In 2018, Sports Illustrated reported on the “corrosive” workplace culture of the Mavericks. There were allegations of sexual harassment and assault. (Former team president and CEO Terdema Ussery denied the allegations against him.)

As SI reported, former Mavs.com beat writer Earl Sneed remained employed by the franchise after being arrested at the team facility and charged with assault.  Sneed pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of family violence assault and interference with emergency request. He allegedly assaulted a female employee two years later. (He declined comment to SI after being contacted.)

An internal investigation confirmed that the workplace culture in the Mavericks office was indeed toxic. The investigation also concluded that Cuban had no knowledge of these incidents, but he did apologize on television for what took place.

In spring 2022, former coach and general manager Donnie Nelson — Cuban’s first head coach — alleged that he was fired for reporting that Cuban’s chief of staff had sexually assaulted his nephew during a job interview. Cuban denies those allegations, and the Mavericks released a statement that does the same.

It has been 23 years since Cuban purchased the Mavericks. He has certainly made NBA basketball far more popular in the Metroplex than ever before. As far as him being a new and improved sports owner though, his track record in the NBA shows him to be another guy who knows how to make a buck.

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