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Mavericks’ Mark Cuban talks NBA restart, Black Lives Matter, true leadership

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Vocal Dallas Mavericks owner and “Shark Tank” star Mark Cuban carves out some quarantine time to chat with Post columnist Steve Serby about everything from the NBA’s restart to the social movement against racism to the talent of former Knick Kristaps Porzingis.

Q: What are your main safety concerns about the Orlando bubble, and are positive tests inevitable?
A: I don’t have specific concerns. I think the NBA and Disney are working with our doctors and scientists to do everything possible to keep (participants) safe. In fact, given the rise in cases in states, I have every reason to believe the setup we have in Orlando will be safer for our players and travel parties than staying in their respective cities.

Q: What makes you optimistic that a champion will be crowned?
A: I have no reason to believe there won’t be a champion crowned. Again, I think the environment we create will be safer inside the bubble than outside of it.

Q: What will it be like with no fans in the arena?
A: It will be different for certain. But there will be a lot of technology we will be experimenting with to try to introduce noise and make the event more entertaining for players and TV viewers. We have been having a lot of fun with apps that allow fans to push noise they make at home into the arena. So not only will there be competition on the court, there will be competition from fans to contribute energy as well!

Q: What message would you have for Kyrie Irving regarding his aversion to resuming the season during the Black Lives Matter movement?
A: I respect whatever choices any of our players make.

Q: Is there anything you would have changed about the playoff format or the starting date for the 2021-22 NBA season?
A: There is no perfect format. We could tweak it here or there, but I think we ended up with a solution that will definitely work. In terms of the starting day for next season, my preference is Christmas Day, but am OK with any time after Thanksgiving. With companies and schools changing their holiday schedule to effectively combine Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks as a means of reducing risk, I’m hopeful the NBA can use that time to not only start the season, but also to start to introduce fans to a home schedule. Again, it’s purely a hope. Hopefully we will have a vaccine or have adopted another means to maximize safety while allowing fans in arenas. By pushing back our schedule to post Thanksgiving, I think we increase our chances of this happening

Q: What do you believe will be the quality of play and the likelihood of added injuries?
A: The four-month break since March 11 till the start of camp isn’t all that different than the end of the regular season to summer league or the midpoint of the playoffs to the start of training camp. So I don’t expect any difference on the injury front than a traditional start of season. Plus our training and medical staffs are going to be hyper-vigilant for obvious reasons. So I think we will all err on the side of caution when it comes to player health

Q: Why is this country just now awakening to Black Lives Matter?
A: Racism is a generations-old problem that we need to address and change as a country. I think a big part of the problem is that the vast majority of Americans are uncomfortable having honest discussions about race.

Q: How would you assess your team’s chances?
A: I think we are going to be ready to play. I think we have a great group of guys who love to play together, a great coaching and analytics staff that will give us every chance of making a long playoff run.

Kristaps Porzingis
Kristaps PorzingisAP

Q: What have you learned about Kristaps Porzingis on the court and off?
A: I really like KP. He loves the game of basketball. He works his ass off. He wants to be one of the best players in the game and puts in the time. And most importantly he wants to win. He will put what the team needs ahead of stats or individual accolades to help us win. What I like best about KP is that he has that one extra level at crunch time that all great players have.

Q: What impresses you most about Luka Doncic?
A: How much fun he has playing the game. That he truly enjoys every minute on the court and that joy is contagious. He is obviously skilled, but he has the ability to make everyone on the court with him better.

Q: What intrigued you about owning the Mavs?
A: I love the game of basketball. During the pandemic, my stress reduction has been to go out back and shoot baskets. During normal times I would shoot before all of our home games. I would go play pickup every chance I got. I truly have always been a ball-is-life type guy. When I got the chance to buy the Mavs, it was a dream come true

Q: What are your biggest regrets during your ownership?
A: Letting Steve Nash go [to the Suns as a free agent in 2004].

Q: What would you hope your players and fan base say about you?
A: He loves the Mavs, the community and winning.

Q: Who are owners and executives in other sports you admire or have admired?
A: I like [Cowboys owner] Jerry Jones. Jerry is the consummate sales guy. He truly is one of the best at what he does. Every time I’m around him he has some of the most amazing stories about fighting his way to the top and he always has a smile on his face

Q: Who are leaders in any line of work you admire?
A: I like Elon Musk. He can be full of himself sometimes, but he is the only entrepreneur in my lifetime that truly takes on projects that most people would be afraid to even try, and makes them work. The guy is a machine who gets things done and seems to have some fun along the way. I admire that.

Q: What is your definition of leadership?
A: Having a vision of where you want to take an organization while always learning. Always looking to improve while looking to help those in your organization achieve their personal goals in pursuit of the organizational goals.

Q: How would you characterize your ownership/leadership style?
A: Imperfect but always in search of doing better and trying to reach the ideals mentioned above.


Q: How would you describe Adam Silver’s leadership style, and how does it compare to David Stern’s?

A: I like them both. But David was more autocratic while Adam is more collaborative. Both were the right approach relative to where the NBA found itself competitively.

Q: Who are coaches in other sports you admire?
A: I honestly don’t pay that close attention to coaches in other sports.

Q: Who are players in other sports you admire?
A: Patrick Mahomes. He makes the game fun to watch, he is a good person that I’ve enjoyed spending time with, and he stands up for what he believes in.

Q: What are your favorite Dirk Nowitzki memories?
A: So, so many. Singing “We Are the Champions” the entire [2011] summer we won the championship.

Q: What are your favorite Steve Nash memories?
A: Taking Dirk around during his first All-Star appearance. Can’t really give more details than that 🙂

Q: Best Dennis Rodman story?
A: When he was my roommate, just shooting baskets in my backyard and talking about his career.

Q: What was special about your championship team?
A: They all played for each other. They knew their role and did all they could to be their best at it, and we all recognized that Dirk had one of the greatest playoff runs in the history of the NBA.

Mark Cuban
Mark Cuban and Spike LeeCharles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Q: Describe your emotions that night winning it all.
A: Stress release. The pinnacle moment was when there was about 30 seconds left in Game 6, and I realized we truly were going to win the championship. After the entire run of not allowing myself to think it would really happen and then coming to the realization we were about to become world champions, that release, that moment, was incredible.

Q: What is your opinion on Knicks prospective coaching candidates Tom Thibodeau and Kenny Atkinson?
A: They are both great coaches.

Q: What is the most unfair criticism about you as an owner?
A: That my jumper is broken. It’s not 🙂

Q: How were you treated at the beginning, and how did you win the respect of the other NBA owners?
A: It was fun at the beginning. It seemed like I was in a battle of some sort with the NBA every week. Some of the old-time owners did not like me at all. They would rip me publicly or privately every chance they got because I didn’t do things their way. But with David Stern and Jerry Buss’ support, I think over time as new owners replaced the old they came to realize I was trying to help our business and help the game.

Q: The adjectives you would use to describe Mark Cuban.
A: Competitive. Intense. Open-minded.

Q: If Colin Kaepernick played basketball, would you give him an opportunity?
A: Yes. In a heartbeat. If he could help us win, I would sign him in a nanosecond.

Q: Do you think any other owners in any sport will join you in kneeling?
A: I don’t know. Everyone has to do what they think is right. I think we are at a possible inflection point for race relations in this country. If we are going to change the way things have been done for generations, there are going to have to have the uncomfortable discussions and situations that are required to lead to change. I love this country. It has given me so much. My father, my uncle, fought for this country, and my dad in particular was always clear to me that he fought for freedom for everyone. I was raised to stop what I was doing and put my hand over my heart and face the flag during the anthem. But my dad also taught us that change is hard. That we all have to recognize when there is something worth standing up for, or in this case kneeling for, to do it. Don’t do things because that’s the way it’s always been done. I don’t look at kneeling as being disrespectful, If someone cares enough for our country and wants so badly to see it improve, to the point of realizing they could be criticized, ostracized or worse, that shows me how much they love this country. How important it is to them to see us improve. This is an important time for our country. It takes a mensch to do what they think is right.

Q: What were your emotions when you saw the George Floyd video for the first time?
A: Disgust. I was sickened. It was stomach-turning to see a man lose his life

Q: What are your favorite “Shark Tank” experiences?
A: Every time I see an entrepreneur get a deal and realize their life just was changed.

Q: What surprised you most about Michael Jordan in ESPN’s “The Last Dance”?
A: How nice MJ was to all the workers at the arena.

Q: Boyhood idol?
A: Julius Erving or Pete Maravich.

Q: What drove you as a boy and what drives you now? Fear of failure?
A: I’m super competitive. I want to show you I can beat you.

Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Roy Cohn, Donald Trump and Joe McCarthy. No explanation needed.

Q: Favorite movies?
A: “Rocky,” “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life,” “Independence Day,” “Iron Man.”

Q: Favorite actors?
A: Leo DiCaprio, Robert Downey Jr.

Q: Favorite actress?
A: Scarlett Johansson.

Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?
A: J. Cole, The Chainsmokers, Lil Wayne, George Clinton.

Q: Favorite meal?
A: Fried pickles, burritos and anything.

Q: What are your emotions on this Father’s Day?
A: Glad my family is healthy and we are spending time together.

Q: You’ve said, “Nobody had high hopes for me.” Why was that?
A: I guess I was pretty average across the board my first couple years of high school. My mom was worried I didn’t have a trade to fall back on. So she had someone teach me how to lay carpet. Fortunately I was awful at it.

Q: What are low points in your life that tested your resilience and mental toughness?
A: I’ll keep this one to myself.

Q: What are the common denominators of successful people?
A: They are always learning and looking for reasons to improve and not keep things the same.

Q: What are you most proud of about what you’ve been able to accomplish in your life from a kid who sold garbage bags and stamps and then powdered milk to MicroSolutions to Broadcast.com to now?
A: My kids. Just hearing them call me “Dad” still gives me goose bumps every single time

Q: Why do you think you would be a good president?
A: Because I have no allegiance to anyone or anything but the American people.

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