"I don't think I could work under those conditions. I just don't." - Phil Jackson, 15 March 2009
That little bit of speculation came from the Zen-master himself, shortly after the Mavericks’ heartbreaking but not all that surprising 107-100 loss in Los Angeles on Sunday. Jackson was responding to a question about Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban, specifically if he could play for a so-called “hands-on” owner, who “openly criticizes players and coaches in the press.”
This may be true, and it’s certainly not the first time Jackson has taken a shot at Cuban through the press. But the jab wasn’t all that deserved. If anything, Mark Cuban is the most blameless owner in the greater Dallas area.
The remarks were basically a response to Mark Cuban’s incendiary comments after the “Bay of Pigs”-style disaster that was the Mavs-Thunder game earlier this month. There’s no need to rehash the owner’s blow-up here.
But, if anything, Cuban’s remarks were deserved, and at least, it was out of character for the 50 year-old.
Cuban has painstakingly defended anyone who has ever been on his payroll for at least as long as they have been on the payroll, whether deserving or not.
And if there was ever a time to draw the line in the sand and call out each and every employee with Mark Cuban’s name on their paychecks, it was after the March 2 beating at the hands of a Thunder team minus Kevin Durant. It was not just a loss; it was an embarrassing beat-down by a team that wouldn’t win the Big 12 tournament.
In those dark times, an owner-sponsored blow-up is all angry fans can hope for. I, and a great many Dallas sports fans, I imagine, would have danced a jig had Jerry Jones thrown down a similar gauntlet after the pants-down whipping delivered by Baltimore in the final game in Texas Stadium.
The argument can be made, I suppose, that Mark Cuban is too involved, but then, the same can be said for most owners.
Cuban wants to win; that much is obvious. But it’s hard to reconcile this desire with what appears to be a mediocre basketball team, at this point. Regardless of the season or talent level, the owner becomes a lot more visible in unsure times.
And for the Mavericks, and any team on the bubble in the West, these times are nothing if not unsure.
Not that Jackson or the Lakers would know much about that.