Cuban, the Cubs, Kobe, the Lakers and Rose


Nov 17

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

There was no word yet whether Martha Stewart had any decorating tips for her alleged fellow inside trader, Mark Cuban.


Yes, Cuban was the talk of the NBA Monday, though for reasons other than usual. Of course, one might say there was not that much difference as Cuban was facing more than $1 million in fines from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is about what’s he’s paid the NBA for various infractions and indiscretions.


Cuban Monday was charged in a civil complaint-that’s right, not criminal and no potential prison time like Martha-with insider trading. Though after trading Devin Harris for Jason Kidd and letting go of Steve Nash for nothing so he could sign Erick Dampier, you’d think the government would leave Cuban alone since his trades mostly have hurt him.


Sorry, I’m having trouble resisting.


Cuban and I have an entertaining past.


I generally write what a self serving attention seeker Cuban is, and he uses his blog to lambaste me as a hack and a loser, though I think with truth being the best defense he feels he’s safe. He even wrote once he contacted The Tribune and tried to have me fired, but he was told by a Tribune executive I was like the "batty old uncle" in the attic they couldn’t get rid of. On second thought, with Cuban courting current Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell for the Cubs, he may finally have succeeded in that.


Cuban and I had a bit of a rapprochement (excuse my French) when the Mavs were here last year. He missed last Thursday’s game, so we were unable to further our relationship with shopping tips from his t-shirt shop.


He actually can be good company, and he does some wonderful things for charity. The way I see it is we enjoy the debate.


Cuban, like anybody, deserves the benefit of the doubt-yes, even him, though did you see him dancing?-and he was only accused. Though I got a business degree as an undergraduate and worked as an auditor after college, I never quite understood insider trading. I thought that was the whole idea-to get a tip and make some money. Of course, all that funny trading on Wall Street got the country in a huge mess and it’s time we had some more regulation.


The details are in news stories, but Cuban basically got tips to avoid $750,000 in losses. If proven, the fine generally is twice that amount. Cuban vehemently denied the accusations, and it’s not like the government is always right in such cases. Especially in this administration. Ironically-and perhaps suspiciously-Cuban runs a website supposedly dedicated to exposing securities fraud and which has said it will track the government’s $700 billion bailout plan.


While the case will be settled by lawyers, the ramifications are intriguing.


It probably knocks Cuban out of the purchase of the Cubs for good now that there is a federal case against him. I doubted Major League Baseball owners wanted him anyway as many owners in the NBA of late have been warning baseball owners about Cuban. And baseball owners are free to decide whom they want as a partner. Now, that’s done for Cuban as there’s a legitimate reason.


There’s also been some interest among NBA owners as some have told me they believed Cuban would try to sell the declining Mavs if he could get the Cubs and get into the world of baseball. They doubted he had money for both, and one of my basketball friends who is a conspiracy buff believes Cuban leaked the whole thing to get out of the Cubs purchase with the economy suffering and Zell’s idea of a debt deal now unworkable. After all, he pointed out, if Cuban wanted to pursue baseball he would have settled this thing a few years ago and not let it get to this public stage.


This also is why I’ve never understood the fascination with Cuban by Cubs fans and talk show hosts. Yes, he is quoted a lot, which only speaks to how lazy many reporters are. Does anyone ever try to quote another owner? Just because someone wants to talk, do you have to ask him his opinion on everything?


But if you study the Mavs history under Cuban, yes, he is enthusiastic and that can be contagious, he got a great arena built and made games fun to come to. But he bought a team with Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash and Michael Finley. He’s spent money, but often badly. He let Finley go for nothing to save money under the luxury tax. He let go Nash for nothing before Nash won two MVP awards and used the same amount to sign Dampier, a journeyman. He’s betrayed players, like Tim Hardaway and Nick Van Exel, whom he acquired with promises of contracts, but then let go, even costing Van Exel $11 million when he gave up his option year under promises from Cuban. Of course, most players accuse owners of that.


He’s fired two coaches and one, so far, Don Nelson, has sued him and won, and thus far Cuban refuses to pay. He gets involved with trades and moves, undermining his general manager and pushing that disastrous trade for Kidd, which was reasonable on a chance for Devin Harris. But why throw in two first rounders?


When the Mavs got to the Finals in 2006-and they did do that, so I’ll give him some credit there-players say the team’s meltdown was exacerbated by Cuban’s hysteria as they were blowing games.


I can understand why columnists would want him to own a team, though in Dallas the newspapers generally have cowered from him as he has used classic bullying tactics to threaten to remove advertising if criticized. The NBA last season had to overrule the Mavs, who were trying to ban a blogger writing for the Dallas Morning News because Cuban didn’t like what he was writing. I know Cubs fans tend not to be very worldly or analytical, but, geez, this guy?


Of course, I might feel differently if Cuban had given me some inside information. He’s got like $2 billion, so he has figured a lot of things out way, way better than I ever have.

— The Bulls open that big seven-game Western Conference trip Tuesday in Los Angeles against the Lakers, who have the league’s best record despite losing their last game to the Pistons. I called my friend Mike Bresnahan, the fine Lakers’ beat writer for the Los Angeles Times and asked him to get a few responses from the Lakers on Derrick Rose.


Yes, it’s Kobe vs Rose!


Well, not quite as the Lakers are loaded with Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom even coming off the bench. Everyone is picking them to get back to the Finals and the Bulls figure to be going into a buzz saw with the Lakers coming off a loss and a long weekend of rest. But you could look it up, Kobe was just another guy as a rookie, though with a somewhat better team.

"Great numbers," Kobe told Bresnahan about Rose. "I had a chance to see him a lot this summer with the [USA] Select team. He came up and played a great deal. I just think he has a lot of potential, a lot of talent. He’s a solid player right now and the sky’s the limit for him."

Added Phil Jackson: "He’s going to be a good player. I think he’s a playmaker first and foremost, and I think he’s learning scoring in the NBA. Really, I think the playmaking, his teamwork and his capability of giving the ball to players is really what’s an important aspect of his game."


Well, they don’t sound scared yet.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors.

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