On Cusp of NBA Season, Rockets-Mavericks Rivalry Is Going Next Level
As much as we'd all like to get along, as much as life becomes easier with peace and harmony, there is no doubt that conflict stokes people.
Many of you reading this live in the great state of Texas, where conflict is inherently baked into our opinions on the state as a whole and our respective cities within the state. Houston hates San Antonio, San Antonio hates Houston, and everyone hates Dallas. Hell, conflict is the basis for our state's catchphrase, for Willie Nelson's sake!
Don't mess with Texas.
Our state is one big people stew of various flavors of the "likes to fight" guy. Don't mess with our city, don't mess with our state. So in the one professional sport where the state has more than two teams (and that third team just happens to be the best in the world at that sport), it's fun to see leadership for a couple of the teams get feisty and personal.
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Yes, the NBA season is here, and if the quotes from Rockets general manager Daryl Morey are any indication as to how his players and coaches feel about the Dallas Mavericks, then (to quote WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross) business is, by GAWD, about to pick up!
The best NBA writer on the planet right now is Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski, and the most quotable general manager is probably Morey, so a conversation between these two inherently has all sorts of powder-keg potential. And in a piece that went up on Yahoo! Sports' website on Monday, the two did not disappoint.
The primary topic was the Earl Campbell-in-1980-sized legs that the rivalry between Morey's Rockets (they're actually owner Les Alexander's Rockets, but for purposes of the rivalry and the corresponding verbal barbs, they belong to Morey) and Cuban's Mavericks have grown over the last 12 months.
It began with Dwight Howard's decision to join the Rockets over the Mavericks in the summer of 2013 (after the Mavericks had essentially dismantled a championship team to open the necessary cap space) and then reached a boil when Morey followed up the Howard signing by inquiring about the availability of Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki in a trade.
Cuban saw this more as Morey taunting the Mavericks than just Morey employing his philosophy of leaving no "stone with a greater than zero percent chance of happening" unturned.
So the Mavericks proportional response? Well, they had to wait, but it came last July when they signed free agent forward Chandler Parsons to a max level offer sheet (with many of the same type of restricted free agent poison pills Morey had used to sign Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik two years ago), and punctuated it with delightfully hate-able Instagram pictures from whatever club Cuban and Parsons consummated the deal from that night.
For Rockets fans, seeing Parsons in those pictures, so happy and joyful, was like watching a video of your spouse out to dinner with the bully you hated in high school. It left a bitter taste and was a stealth WWE heel manager move by Cuban. Somewhere, Paul Heyman beamed.
We know how the rest of the story went -- the Rockets swung and missed on Chris Bosh, which meant they chose not to overspend on Parsons, letting him go to Dallas. And now here we sit, ready for an explosive 2014-2015 season in the state of Texas.
So this weekend, Morey did what any good competitor in a compelling, money-drawing feud would do. He poured lighter fluid on it.
Here are some of the money quotes from the Wojnarowski piece (which is a must-read in it's entirety):
On Cuban's reaction to Morey's 2013 inquiry about Dirk "I think [Cuban's] pissed that we went after Dirk [Nowitzki] in free agency, however unsuccessful it was."
On Cuban's barbs toward Morey's methods of doing business, complete with a "bully pulpit" reference and a thinly veiled jab about how Les Alexander is classy and Cuban is not "We've been pretty good, and I think he's doing a smart thing to take on a rival. He should want to beat up on San Antonio, too, but it's hard to paint the Spurs that way. So he's directed his bully pulpit onto us. Our owner stays above the fray, so I'm outgunned honestly."
On Dwight Howard's choosing the Rockets over the Mavs, and why any smart person would choose the Rockets over the Mavs, and how therefore Dwight is really, really smart "But let's be clear: If the money's equal between the Rockets and Mavericks, I think players are picking Houston. Every time. For Dwight [Howard], I just don't think it was a hard choice between us and Dallas. If you want to win, you're going to want to join our organization. We have a first-team All-NBA player in his prime [James Harden]. They have an enormously talented superstar [Dirk Nowitzki] but he obviously isn't 24 years old....The choice was pretty obvious between the two teams. Dwight is the smart guy in this."
A complete takedown of Cuban's ridiculous notion that the Rockets place zero value on team chemistry and Cuban's painting of analytics as a direct affront to said chemistry "I completely reject it. Our teams have had great chemistry, and it's something we believe in. Hey, if Mark believed so much in chemistry, he wouldn't have busted up a title team for cap room. He's trying to reunite a lot of those people now, bringing back the center [Tyson Chandler] from that title team. Maybe he's got some chemistry religion recently.....He's tripled his analytics staff. If he's equating analytics with not caring about chemistry, well, he's tripling down on it. I think he's smart to paint a competitor in a negative light, but none of those statements are lining up. He says that we're the team that you sign with and then we will trade you, when that's what he said he would've done with Dwight.....We don't care about chemistry, but he busted up a championship team for what he hoped cap room could do."
Some endearing admission of the true scoreboard "He has a ring. I don't."
On team-building in the NBA in 2014 "We're no different than other teams. We have a core of two players - Dwight Howard and James Harden - who we are going to build around and never trade. San Antonio has had three core guys who they've done an unbelievable job of building around, making a lot of changes around that core. We had Tracy McGrady and Yao [Ming] and we made changes around them. And Mark's had a core of one [Nowitzki], who was there since before he bought the team."
So the Rockets and Mavericks are taking this all to the next level. Of course, three levels up from whatever "next level" is, just down the road on I-10, sit the defending World Champs, who I would imagine are sitting back, lighting a cigar and having a good chuckle at the other two Texas teams verbally duking it out for the Intercontinental Title.
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