1-On-1 With Cuban As Dwight 'Rolls Dice'

At 6:30, in my 1-on-1 visit with Mark Cuban, he scoffed at ‘scoops' about Dwight's future and detailed his ‘cumulative knowledge' to predict trade-deadline news. At 8:30, the NBA Store put up for sale ‘HOWARD' Nets t-shirts. At 10:30, Orlando brass huddled to decide what to make of Dwight's ‘Roll The Dice' statement. Three ticks of a clock. And a fourth tick to come. Allow us to take you inside:

Let's begin with DallasBasketball.com's exclusive contribution to a controversial evening. In Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's traditional pregame weight-room visit with the media on Tuesday, he spoke at length about his belief that his team, as presently constructed, will rebound from the recent stretch of nine games in 12 nights which produced seven losses for the defending champions. He talked about the "unbalanced schedule'' and how during this final stretch of this condensed season, his team will play fewer games than any other West club.

"Hopefully,'' Cuban told the group, "that will work in our favor. Hopefully we'll run into some tired teams like they ran into us."

There is another, greater hope, of course: That Thursday's trade deadline produces some help. … or that whatever else happens at the deadline doesn't prevent the Mavs from seeking the right help in the Summer of 2012.

Yes, I'm talking about the likes of Deron Williams and Dwight Howard, the do-able-but-dreamy ideas that would put Dallas in position to be on top of a SuperTeam Era. In the group session, Cuban nodded at the TV screen and chided ESPN for "acting like they're in the Orlando locker room and in their front office.''

Someone then broached the subject of the Adrian Wojnarowski report at Yahoo that insists Dwight-to-Nets is a done deal. Cuban scoffed again.

"That's according to ‘The Gospel of Adrian,' right?'' he sneered.

The crowd dispersed and I quizzed Cuban. … About the intensity of the work, the sleepless nights, of trade-deadline time … of communication with Player X if his team has granted permission to the Mavs to talk to him … and, as specifically as can be done on-the-record, about his thoughts of the Mavs making a deadline deal to improve the roster … a truly impactful deadline deal.

"I'm a four-to-six hours (sleeper), and that doesn't change that much at this time of year,'' Cuban told me. "The thing is, you put down the groundwork for this all year long. I've studied every roster. Every guy. Every salary. It's ‘cumulative knowledge' because it's not just something I'm doing this week. I do it every day.
Smile "And what I know about every roster, every guy, every salary, is that there is nothing on the horizon that, all things considered, makes us better. Especially now. We don't have the practice time to integrate a new guy into what we do, right? So is somebody throwing us a gimme? If not, what is there to do? Not much."

Cuban suggested me that while Orlando had given Dallas the right to talk to Howard directly, that the permission was intended as a preseason thing only … and that no, the Mavs are not in contact with Howard, who has Dallas on his future wish list. (Reportedly behind the Nets, though my conversation with Cuban suggests to me that he's not sure how anybody can know that.) I told Cuban that his remarks about ESPN and Yahoo would be interpreted by some as a sign that Cuban has insight about Howard that the mainstream media does not have.

"Here's the problem,'' he said. "I'm not saying a certain reporter is lying. I'm saying he's getting his information honestly, maybe, but the information is wrong. Or the information has been fed to him for a certain reason. The teams involved, what are their motivations in talking? Why are they revealing things to anybody? Every reporter has his motivation and then every team has his motivation.''

And, of course, every player has his motivation. Which brings us to Howard himself. … and comments from him that seem to clash with Yahoo and ESPN stuff … comments that rather mesh with Cuban's.

After the Orlando Magic registered a dramatic 104-98 win over the Miami Heat, Dwight Howard said he wants to play the rest of the season with Orlando. He did not say he wanted to sign an extension and stay. He said he wants the Orlando Magic to keep him at least temporarily and then to "roll the dice" on him this summer in free agency.

"Well, I told those guys (Magic management), I've been telling them for the past two or three weeks now that I want to stay and finish the season," Howard said. "I told them I feel we have a great opportunity to win and I told them that I want to be here and I want to bring a championship here. I told them they've got to give me that chance. They didn't trade me at the beginning of the season and I told them I'd go out and play as hard as I could every night to put our team in a position to win….

"We've been talking for a while," he said. "I told them that I want to finish this season out and give our team and our fans some hope for the future. I feel they have to roll their dice. It might be tough, but I feel like we have a great opportunity. They've got to roll it."

That roll? It means if Orlando keeps him past Thursday's deadline Howard can opt out of his deal next summer and walk. And the Magic might get nothing. And if he departs in that manner, his new team – the Nets or the Mavs or the Lakers or whomever – will not have had to completely strip down to make room.

Mixed into all of this, of course: There is no done deal'' with New Jersey -- a done deal that would kill Dallas' chances of Dwight and probably Deron, too.

Now, if Orlando brass emerges from its meetings upset that Dwight just embarrassed them into looking like the "bad guy'' no matter what, they could respond by wanting to move him now. (And that might even be Dwight's plan in saying "roll the dice.'')

One local Orlando reporter claims that if the Magic are ready to listen again, the Nets are offering Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and two No. 1 draft picks in exchange for Howard. ... and that meanwhile, the Lakers are offering Andrew Bynum, Derek Fisher and Metta World Peace for Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Duhon.

There might be a problem with the Lakers in terms of taking on the contracts of Turkoglu and Duhon. ... and that leads us back to what we wrote Monday about the "Hedo Headache.'' ... which might now also be a Duhon problem.

We believe that if the Mavs were to get in the mix, they would probably have to take Duhon as well as Hedo. ... still 100-percent doable with ANY of the 3 trade configurations we've outlined. Those three (listed with the Hedo influence for not, not the Hedo + Duhon influence):

*Orlando gets Brendan Haywood, Brandan Wright (or Ian Mahinmi), Lamar Odom and Jason Terry ... Dallas gets Howard, Hedo and two other throw-in fillers with small contracts.

*Orlando gets Haywood, Odom, Shawn Marion and Roddy Beaubois ... Dallas gets Howard, Hedo and two small fillers.

*Orlando gets Haywood, Wright, Mahinmi, Odom, Vince Carter, Beaubois and Dominique Jones … Dallas gets Howard, Hedo and four bodies with minimum (or minimal) contracts.

Are those as attractive as the Nets' and Lakers' offers? No. But if the Lakers balk at taking on Hedo and Duhon ... well, it's back to a two-team race, and maybe back to Dallas hoping no deal goes down at all until summer.
Smile "We don't know yet what we're going to do this summer," said Cuban, and beyond not wanting to make a small deal that doesn't fit in this season's crunch, I would expand that to say that when it comes to Dwight, nobody even knows for sure what they are going to do in the next two days.

That is, except for the NBA Store, which somehow committed a technical gaffe that is captured for posterity here on DB.com Boards. ... and knows it might want to not print up the new HOWARD Nets t-shirts just yet.

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