- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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The first road win of the new year for the Dallas Mavericks did nothing to hush the speculation that Mark Cuban eventually plans to replace Don Nelson with Pat Riley ... especially with Cuban flying to Miami after the Mavericks' overtime victory Monday night in New York.
Cuban, though, scoffed at the Riley idea Tuesday in his loudest terms yet.
"I have never met with Riles in my life," Cuban told ESPN.com, "and I have no plans to do so.
"I'm in Miami to be with my wife and daughter. We have an apartment here."
The Mavericks lost their first three road games in 2004 and almost added a fourth, blowing a 20-point lead before holding off the Knicks. Dallas' record of 21-16 this season includes a 5-13 road mark. At this point last season, the Mavs were 31-6 overall.
Yet Cuban has been adamant for weeks that he is anti-change on a multitude of fronts after making two major trades before opening night. He repeatedly has denied the notion that the Mavericks will be active again before the Feb. 19 trade deadline -- despite numerous links to Portland's Rasheed Wallace -- and insists that a turnaround is not a "talent issue" but a "getting-our-act-together issue."
Injuries and the top-to-bottom improvement by teams in the Western Conference also are issues. Still, the Mavericks clearly are suffering from a lack of confidence in addition to their lack of continuity. Apart from a 6-3 record against San Antonio, Sacramento, Minnesota and the Lakers, Dallas increasingly has struggled to click offensively in addition to its usual spate of defensive troubles.
Cuban told reporters Monday in New York that it would take "a sweetheart bargain that we couldn't say no to" for Dallas to trade for Wallace or anyone else in the next month.
Asked Tuesday by ESPN.com to expound on Nelson's status, he dismissed the subject as "talk-show bingo."
"I don't play talk-show bingo," Cuban continued. "There's nothing to talk about."
It's no secret that the Cuban-Nelson relationship is chillier than ever after last season, when Nelson did not receive a contract extension from Cuban until after the Mavericks completed the first 60-win campaign in franchise history and advanced to the Western Conference finals. Nelson ultimately received a three-year coaching extension worth some $15 million, but the contentious nature of negotiations cooled the relationship further.
Doubts about the relationship grew louder last month when Cuban said Dallas' struggles defensively weren't "so much with our players as it is with our coaching staff just drilling them and drilling them and drilling them to death." Nelson, meanwhile, forges on, although he did make an oblique reference to status in New York when asked about the mounting pressure on former Celtics teammate Don Chaney.
"That goes with the territory," Nelson told reporters. "He's not alone in that field, by the way."
It bears reminding that even if the Mavericks had interest in Riley, pursuing that interest would require a formal request for permission from the Miami Heat. Riley, 58, still serves as Heat president despite resigning his coaching post just four days before the start of the season. Riley also has said repeatedly that he intends to honor his original 10-year contract and stay with the Heat through the 2004-05 season.
14hMatt Walks, ESPN.com