Mac Engel

July 2, 2014

Cuban’s plan to catch big fish for Mavericks flounders

If Mark Cuban were a contestant on Shark Tank, his plan would be quickly eaten.

Mark Cuban thrives as a judge on Shark Tank, but his plan to rebuild his beloved Dallas Mavericks as champions would be devoured if he put it before the panel of sharks.

For those unfamiliar with Shark Tank, the TV show features aspiring entrepreneurs pitching their concepts to established business people who, if they like the pitches, invest in the fledgling companies. If they don’t like the ideas, the entrepreneurs leave empty-handed. It’s a fun show, and Cuban is at his smarmy-best acting the part of the smartest shark in the water.

The irony is since the summer of 2012, Cuban has essentially been a contestant in an NBA version of his own TV show. He is the entrepreneur pitching his plan to the sharks — “big fish” NBA free agents — and every time he has been devoured, left searching for chum.

But because he is his own real-life shark who signs the checks, he can remain dug in with a plan that thus far has kept the team competitive for the playoffs and little else. You can never say Cuban doesn’t want it, but his steadfast refusal to admit the plan isn’t working — or that we are not buying his spin — borders on offensive.

Ever since the NBA and the NBA players union came to a new agreement late in 2011, the Mavs’ plan was to clear cap space to sign the “big fish” free agents. And this team will die trying until one agrees.

Three years after the plan began, it continued again in earnest. On Wednesday the team pitched “big fish” free agent Carmelo Anthony. It would be wonderful if Melo agreed to be a Maverick, and Cuban’s plan to land a big-time All-Star worked, but history says we best be prepared for the following:

In 2012, it was the chase for Deron Williams. When D-Will opted for the Nets, Cuban said it was all for the best.

In 2013, Chris Paul never even listened to the Mavs. Dwight Howard did listen, and when D12 opted for the Rockets, Cuban said that, too, was all for the best.

To believe this counter-spin, Cuban’s plan to chase the big fish in ’12 and ’13, really, in the end was better that they didn’t catch any of the three.

Cuban made an appearance on The Ben and Skin Show this week on 105.3 The Fan, where he once again justified the plan.

“A lot of people think if you go after a guy and he doesn’t sign that’s a bad sign. I think that’s ridiculous,” Cuban said. “That’s like saying if I walk into a company and don’t make the sale that I shouldn’t have tried. I’m always going to run it out, I’m always going to try because there has been plenty of times when guys said yes.”

Since the Mavs moved forward with this plan in summer of 2012, the guys who have said yes as free agents include O.J. Mayo, Elton Brand, Eddy Curry, Derek Fisher, Chris Kaman, Troy Murphy, DeJuan Blair, Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, Devin Harris, Gal Mekel and Monta Ellis.

This is no longer about the decision to gut the 2011 NBA title roster. That decision may have made sound financial and basketball sense. This is about the follow-up plan that has proved to be sadly unrealistic. God only knows why, but the top NBA free-agent talent or big fish does not want to come here.

Thus far, in three years the master plan to have financial flexibility under the NBA’s salary cap has resulted in one first-round playoff exit, no postseason at all, and an additional first-round series loss.

The sports crime in all of this is that Cuban whiffed huge on his gamble to surround his meal ticket with top-tier players. Dirk Nowitzki is the best basketball thing to ever happen to Cuban, and his time as a prime player and in the NBA in general are fading quickly.

The only way this can be undone is if Melo says yes to Cuban’s pitch, and then we can see if the plan could actually work. Right now, the idea of the plan looks silly.

No one can say the Mavs don’t try and are not creative.

But no one can say this plan is working, or is even plausible if the big fish continue to eat elsewhere.

Cuban is entrenched with this plan and plans to continue to pitch it to the big fish. He is sure one of them will say yes. For the sake of every Mavs fan, and Dirk, hope he is right.

Right now, Cuban looks like he is a contestant on his own TV show, and the sharks are devouring him.

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