'Reborn' Cuban swears he'll listen to commish -- really
DALLAS -- Mark Cuban is ready to do whatever David Stern wants. Really. Honestly.
He promises. A lot.
Stay away from huddles? No problem.
Support overseas expansion instead of building the product in the United States? Done.
Stop coming up with innovations like the multisided 24-second clock and hiring independent shot-clock operators in the playoffs? He's already excited about the extra free time he'll have.
"I'm reborn," the owner of the Dallas Mavericks said Thursday night during his usual pregame workout. "It's no longer Mark Cuban, the benefactor. It's Mark Cuban, David Stern disciple. And I say that with all seriousness. ...
"I used to spend a lot of time trying to really learn the details and the numbers, doing a lot of research, because I was cynical and skeptical. I've lost all that cynicism and skepticism. It's all gone. Sarcasm? There's no sarcasm."
Cuban spoke for nearly 30 minutes before Dallas' 97-91 loss to San Antonio in the season opener, explaining how eager he is to comply with Stern's new guidelines for team owners.
The more he talked, the less sincere he seemed.
"Now I have new aspirations beyond winning the title in the NBA, and that's to fit in and be like everybody else," Cuban said. "They're smarter, they're better, they're prettier, in better shape, they have nicer teeth."
Stern was in Toronto on Friday night for the Raptors-Bucks game and eagerly played along with Cuban's tone -- even keeping a straight face while saying he didn't think there was any sarcasm involved.
"Because I was in Canada, I saw it differently," Stern said.
Playing along, Stern called it "terrific" that Cuban is ready to be a good boy.
"I think he's well advised to do that," Stern said. "I applaud his sagacity in making that decision."
Stern even got in a shot about Cuban looking up to his fellow owners: "There's a humble man," the commissioner said.
The latest round of the Cuban-Stern saga started when Cuban learned of Stern's plan to impose a list of dos and don'ts for owners. It's already being calling the Cuban Rule.
Following a meeting he intentionally avoided, Cuban said the league sent an e-mail saying "non-coaches or personnel are not allowed in the huddle or in the proximity of the huddles."
It did not specifically say owners, nor was he used as an example. Still, there's no doubt he was the target.
Cuban vows following orders will be easy.
"I'll just keep a little diary," he said. "If I get that old urge to yell at the officials, I'll just write it in the diary at the end of the night, just purge all that anxiety because I know that they'll fix it. Everybody's human, everybody makes mistakes. But they'll fix it. They're that good."
Cuban noted his huddle time led to the hiring of Avery Johnson as Dallas' coach. Johnson went from Mavs player to assistant coach to the NBA's coach of the year last season, his first full one in charge, when he also got Dallas to the Finals for the first time.
"It's just one of those accidental benefits," Cuban said. "The law of unintended consequences, I guess."
Cuban said he sent Stern an e-mail about it all. He's yet to receive a reply.
"He doesn't have to," Cuban said. "I just know. We've got that bond now."
Cuban has been a thorn in Stern's side since buying the Mavericks in 2000.
Although he turned one of the league's laughingstocks into a top franchise, the Internet billionaire has been fined at least $1.2 million for complaining to and about officials and pulling other stunts. Dallas players and coaches fear they suffer from the backlash, with star Dirk Nowitzki saying he'd like Cuban to tone down his act.
Yet Cuban remains the center of attention.
In the past week, he's released a study by physics professors showing problems with the league's new synthetic balls, revealed that plans for a satellite radio show were squashed by NBA people who didn't want him to have such a format and had publicized the threat of a $6 million lawsuit by former Mavs coach Don Nelson over money promised by the team's previous owners.
But it was questions about the Cuban Rule that unleashed his "Yes, sir, Mr. Stern" shtick.
Cuban said he's ready to learn from other owners because, while building his fortune, he must have "got lucky the first time, the second time, the third time, the fourth and the fifth time."
"I just didn't see the light," he said. "And I apologize to my fellow NBA owners for not having seen that light. Now I have. I plan on learning from the best."
Other changes: Trading his T-shirt that read MFFL (Mavs Fan For Life) for one that reads TYDS (Thank You David Stern), and a willingness to travel overseas in the preseason and to host the All-Star Game.
He'd even switch from working out on a stair-stepper machine to a treadmill if Stern wants.
"In a minute," Cuban said. "Because he knows."
Cuban sees endless possibilities.
"Everything I'll learn, my gosh, just think of it, all the value to all of my other businesses. Maybe 'Good Night, and Good Luck' [a movie he co-produced] would've won an Academy Award. I just didn't know. Now I know," he said.
In the first test of the new policy, Cuban avoided the huddle Thursday night, but some of his "old urges" couldn't be contained to a diary.
When Nowitzki was called for fouling Tim Duncan in the third quarter, Cuban made a shoving gesture and said, "He pushed him." After watching the replay, he shook his head as he fell back into his seat. He later gave the arena operations director some marching orders for the fourth-quarter entertainment and signaled for double dribble after a non-call against San Antonio's Tony Parker.
As frustrated as Cuban might be, he remains committed to the NBA.
"Oh, I love owning the Mavericks," he said. "The fans, the guys, the competition, the games. Now it's just the added benefit of going to school at the University of David Stern.
"I trust in David," Cuban said. "Life is better."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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