Tim Cowlishaw: Mark Cuban's sale of Mavericks won't have him fishing off his porch. He can stay courtside

He can stay courtside

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban reacts during a break in action against the Golden State Warriors at American Airlines Center on March 22, 2023, in Dallas. (Tim Heitman/Getty Images/TNS)
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban reacts during a break in action against the Golden State Warriors at American Airlines Center on March 22, 2023, in Dallas. (Tim Heitman/Getty Images/TNS)

DALLAS -- Ultimately, I'm afraid this all-hands-on-deck search to explain Mark Cuban's selling a majority stake in the Mavericks will conclude the way 90% of conspiracy theories do -- nothing but mismatched threads lying about the floor, only the crazies still trying to connect them into a coherent explanation.

Cuban is 65 but works hard to look younger and is hardly the retiring type. He is not clairvoyant in the literal sense, but he sees the future of the NBA more clearly than most. He has become convinced, or at least convinced himself, that the Mavericks' future lies in a new arena downtown connected to a major casino. This is despite the fact that Winstar threw open its doors just across the Oklahoma border 20 years ago, taking in millions of Texans' dollars by the month without a peep from our state legislature the entire time. Gov. Abbott has made it clear he is no fan of casinos in Texas, and it sounds as though Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is even more deadset against their operations.

Maybe that helps explain the Cuban sale more clearly than anything else. He doesn't want to spend his own millions the next few years to persuade the legislature to catch up with other states (36 already allow sports betting). So if Miriam Adelson and the Sands Corp. are willing to do the hard digging that will require, Cuban is OK leading the basketball operation and shouting at refs for another 10 years.

It's not as if he doesn't have other things to do. His noble Cost Plus Drugs operation has, at last count, more than 2 million customers, and there are the dozens (hundreds?) of businesses he has bought into during the long run of ABC's "Shark Tank," which, for Cuban, ends next season. His sale of the majority of the Mavericks for $2 billion will not have him fishing off his porch.

It will represent a sea change for Cuban nevertheless. He can still rail at officials during games (surely he gets to keep those courtside seats), but he won't be the guy at the NBA board of governors meetings representing the Mavericks on officiating topics or anything else. He can direct the basketball operation in the offseason, but who's to say how much money to spend or when the club can exceed the league's luxury tax level? I don't doubt that Cuban already has had that conversation with those who matter and has been assured it will be left to him. But we know how those things can change.

Cuban bought the Mavericks in 2000 and soon thereafter assured us that the club would never again be faced with money problems of any kind. He freely tossed in $3 million to complete trades (the maximum the league allowed) until that finally grew old. And, yes, he shifted course numerous times -- often due to changes in the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement -- on when and how to spend money. The point is that new ownership can assure Cuban that all they care about is the pursuit of the arena/casino involved, but, eventually, those millions add up even to a multi-billionaire like Adelson. And times and thought processes change.

Regardless, as Cuban has learned, NBA success is not all about the promise of spending money. Despite his attempt to be at the ground floor of bathing athletes in luxury and removing all excuses for losing (a worthy goal), Cuban, for 20-plus years, has had no real success in attracting star free agents to Dallas. On that front, his time as majority owner was a failure. All those years with Dirk Nowitzki in his prime or just moving towards the end of it, the Mavs consistently butted their heads against the wall in pursuit of the Dwight Howards (and sometimes even the DeAndre Jordans) they chased after.

So I'm not sure how leaving Cuban and his pal, Nico Harrison, in charge of the operation lends itself towards getting that second NBA title which seems a frighteningly distant goal for a franchise that has advanced beyond the first round only once since the 2011 championship.

Cuban will remain visible and courtside, but, on Friday night, Luka Doncic wasn't. After announcing the birth of his daughter on social media, Doncic was out against Memphis for "personal reasons." Head coach Jason Kidd said he did not know if those personal reasons would extend to Saturday's game against a much more competitive Oklahoma City team.

With no Doncic or Tim Hardaway Jr. (back) or Dante Exum (personal reasons), the Mavs were short-handed but Kidd was not asking for miracles in his pre-game news conference. "No one can be Luka. There's only one Luka," he said. "Just stay in your role."

Cuban is trying to do the same, even though he knows, in all honesty, it is changing forever.

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