PHILADELPHIA – Before two of the best teams in the NBA squared off Friday night on national television, Mavericks’ proprietor Mark Cuban was discussing the different ways his team and the Philadelphia 76ers made it back to respectability.
The Sixers, of course, had the infamous “process.” That involved essentially flushing two or three seasons in order to accumulate high draft picks. They chose no lower than third in the draft for three consecutive seasons starting in 2014.
It took awhile, but they are finally getting the dividends with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons having grown into their prime.
The Mavericks never got as bad as the Sixers were. But they did hit rock bottom in 2017-18, when they tied for third-worst record in the NBA. But, just as has been their fate throughout franchise history, they got no luck in the lottery and ended up picking fifth.
They finagled their way to Luka Doncic and now they are getting the rewards for that decision.
But, as Cuban said before the game, NBA teams can only do their best when it comes to acquiring players and trying to set themselves up for success. A lot of that success comes down to one variable.
“Having a championship team in the NBA requires luck,” Cuban said. “And you could easily say it’s 99 percent luck. You have the draft with LeBron James, the expected No. 1 pick, and you get the No. 1 pick . . . if you have it and it’s a bad draft . . .
“My first draft, I don’t remember who the No. 1 pick was (Kenyon Martin), but (beyond that, it was) Jamal Crawford and that was about it.
“So much of this is luck. And you have to be healthy.”
Cuban recalled how the Mavericks thought they had a deal for Andre Iguodala the year they were going for Dwight Howard in free agency. But at the last minute, Golden State cleared cap space and lured Iguodala.
And then there was 2011, when Caron Butler went down with a serious injury on New Year’s Day and the Mavericks, 24-7 at the time, thought they were in serious trouble.
They went on to win the championship without Butler, arguably their third best player at the time.
It just goes to show that even though the Mavericks have prospered since drafting Doncic, there are no guarantees in the NBA or life, for that matter.
It reinforces the old line that it’s better to be lucky than good. But even better to be both.
Happy anniversary: The Mavericks are creeping up on the 20-year anniversary of when Mark Cuban bought the franchise (Jan. 4, 2000).
Back then, he paid was considered a remarkable price for the team: $285 million.
These days, that’s barely a couple year’s payroll for an NBA team.
And Cuban remembers that in 2000, paying $285 million for something wasn’t exactly a monster investment, even though people on the outside thought at the time that he overpaid.
“It’s all relative,” he said. “I remember sitting on the bus right after I bought the team with Nellie (Don Nelson) and Del (Harris). Yahoo stock price had just gone up, like $75. And (that) literally paid for it. I told them, I just paid for the Mavs’ purchase. That’s how crazy it was back then. It was funny money.”
Briefly: Luka Doncic missed his third consecutive game with a right ankle sprain, but he was on the court about an hour before the game doing baseline-to-baseline sprints. He wasn’t racing full speed, but he wasn’t limping or favoring his ankle, either. It remains doubtful that Doncic will play Sunday at Toronto, but he’s clearly making good progress since suffering the injury last Saturday . . . The Mavericks, with international travel confronting them, elected to stay in Philadelphia Friday night and use Saturday as a travel day to Toronto . . . Interestingly, the Cowboys will be checking into the same team hotel that the Mavericks are checking out of on Saturday.