DALLAS — It’s a feeling Dallas Mavericks proprietor Mark Cuban isn’t accustom to and one he doesn’t plan on experiencing again.
Seeing his team’s season end on April 17 after finishing up with a 41-41 record, Cuban couldn’t wait to close the door on the 2012-13 campaign while turning his attention to a busy summer. And after the Mavericks’ 12-year consecutive playoff streak came to an end, the proprietor will now focus on rebuilding a team capable of bringing the second NBA title to Dallas just two summers after doing so for the first time in franchise history.
“It just is what it is. You can’t change it now, and just get fired up to go to work and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Cuban told reporters before the team’s season finale win over New Orleans. “I mean, you can’t dwell, you can’t get mad. I mean, I’ve already broken up with this season … and I’ve already started the seven steps of recovery. You know, I’ve been mad and I’ll move forward. It’s time to start looking forward to dating a new season. … I’ll send my ‘Dear John letter’ to the season and I won’t look back. I’ll start dating someone new. This season will get over it. They’re going in the record books and there’s a big old black swan next to it hopefully and we’ll move on.
“There’s one winner and 29 teams tied for last,” he added. “And no matter when your season ends, when you’re tied for last, you’re tied for last. … We’ve come in last every year but one and I haven’t been satisfied any of those years, so we’ll just move on.”
Looking to begin a new romance with next season’s squad, Cuban will try to use the Mavs’ financial flexibility in his favor in order to make a splash in free agency this offseason. He’ll also attempt to align 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki with enough talent around him to return the franchise to the playoffs after failing to reach the postseason for the first time since Cuban took proprietorship of the team in the 1999-00 season.
And even after taking the court for the first 27 games of the season without his franchise player and seeing his team fight back from 10 games below .500 on Jan. 9 to eventually break even, the proprietor isn’t content, hoping to give the franchise a facelift this summer.
“Well, when your best player is not there, that’s obviously going to have an impact. No one is talking about how much better any team is when they lose their best player, so that’s just the way that this business works. You know, it’s just the way it goes,” Cuban said after seeing his team struggle while Nowitzki was sidelined following his preseason arthroscopic knee surgery.
He continued, “There were so many disappointments I can’t even begin to count. I mean, if you went back through and looked at all the games we gave away, we’d be a 50-plus win team if we won half of them. I mean, we always talked in the past about how the Mavs always won close games, and this was the ultimate reversion to me in extreme. It was ridiculous, but that’s yesterday. … We gave away more games than probably in all 12 or 13 years I’ve been here combined.”
Finishing the season with nine expiring contracts, the Mavs will now have the freedom to pursue several avenues this summer in an attempt to get better. However, despite being armed with financial flexibility for the second straight summer, Cuban says that the Mavs will not look to spend without sticking to a long-term plan.
Winning the 2011 championship with an assortment of veteran players on the last year of their contracts, the Mavericks hoped to replicate that formula this season. But the experiment would ultimately fail, according to Cuban, after the Mavs lacked chemistry and a collective basketball IQ. And although he is ready to sign players to lengthier deals, he doesn’t see the front office doing so if it’s not for the betterment of the team for seasons to come.
“Look, I’m not going to get into particulars. We’re going to be opportunistic and try to improve the team. I don’t see us signing just one-year deals anymore. I think we want to grab onto some people to be a part of a longer term solution and see what happens. … We won a championship with a ton of last-year guys. It wasn’t the contracts. Guys played hard, we just didn’t play well together. Like I said before, our basketball IQ wasn’t where it needed to be and it wasn’t about contracts,” he explained.
“We’re not going to make a financial commitment just to make a financial commitment and say, ‘Look what we did.’ I mean, if there’s nobody there to sign that helps us, we won’t sign anybody and tell everybody exactly why we did what we did and deal with consequences. But we think there will be at least some guys there that we think can help us in one way or another, and we’ll see who they are and what we can do.”