Mavs Owner: 'The Bank Of Cuban Is Open'

The Mavs' big-fish targeting of Dwight is understandable. Heck, even 'No-Hope' Nowitzki says, 'The good thing with cap space is you can turn your situation around pretty quick.' On Monday, Dallas owner Mark Cuban laughed and said, 'The Bank Of Cuban is open.' All of this is great. But Dwight (the customer you'd like to lure into the bank) says his mind's already made up. And LA's got a bank, too.



In recent days, the NBA Twitter-verse and attendant media exploded with news that LA Laker stars Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard are seriously at each other's throats in an active feud. The story was fleshed out by Stefan Bondy of the NY Daily News who spoke of a post-game "heated exchange" between the stars within the last week in which Howard had to be "restrained," followed in the next few days by the stars throwing verbal blows at each other.

Bondy's article went on to explain how the Nets are ready to pounce on the perhaps-quite-available Howard once he forces his way out of LA. A follow-up article in the same paper a few days later outlined that trade talk for Howard is now resurfacing in Nets' Land, and getting reactions from players there.

With the Lakers struggling, and reports emerging like these, the thought is growing that Howard is very likely to abandon the glitz of the Lakers because of all the frustration and hassles, and look for a new home this summer.

Here, Fish outlined it well for DB.com readers. Over the weekend, Marc Stein was reporting that when Dwight Howard becomes a free agent this summer, his preference list will include LA, Dallas, and Atlanta, with the Mavs his first preference if he leaves LA. He wrote: "[T]here's no shortage of executives in other cities who believe the Mavs are still at the front of the line for Dwight Howard …if the struggling Howard decides at season's end that Lakerland isn't for him. ‘I have it as Lakers, Dallas or Atlanta for Dwight,' said one Western Conference GM."

On top of all that, the tax cost for the Lakers to re-sign Howard on a max deal this summer might be daunting, even by their standards. If the current surrounding cast doesn't change, re-signing Howard on a max deal will have LA paying about $100 million (!) in luxury tax in 2013-14 alone, with a total outlay salary plus tax outlay of about $215 million (about triple that of most other NBA teams). If they're losing anyhow, maybe there will be a mutual desire for a divorce by both player and team, right?

Don't fall for it.

Yep, it's clear that the Lakers are experiencing growing pains, with too many losses and some internal turmoil at times. From a Dallas Mavericks' perspective the addition of Howard would be a coup.

But let's start by noting the origin of this latest round of controversy: a writer who covers the Nets, the same Nets who were out-maneuvered by the Lakers in landing Howard by trade. The desire for his services there hasn't waned, and like a jilted lover, any "news" that sounds like a second chance is eagerly embraced and shared.

If you're a Nets' writer, and can find (or create) a Howard-to-Brooklyn possibility, you're getting readers.

But the cruel reality is this: he's now married to the Lakers. Sorry, Mavs fans (and Hawks and Nets fans as well), but that trade to LA effectively ended his availability. Despite the lovers' quarrels we see spotlighted at times, that's where he wants to be. It's LA, Hollywood, Showtime, the glitz and glamor, and he has a spot on center stage - - with the cherry on top being the fact that the Lakers will be able to pay him more money and guarantee more years than any other team, if he stays.

Despite all the chaos this season in LA, every leak from his camp has always said that LA is the place he wants to be. This latest round elicited the response that nothing really happened and it was just talk. The two stars who were supposedly at each other's throats made a joke of it all.

Then how about that tax issue the Lakers will face if they sign him? That too will be spotlighted by those eager to imagine his availability, but it's much ado about nothing.

While such a potential payroll (salary plus tax of about $215 million) is massive, the Lakers' revenue of about $400 million can easily handle it if they want. Their concern is less about payroll, and more about having big-time stars and future titles to continue to fuel the huge revenue stream.

In addition, when they re-sign Howard, the bottom line outlay doesn't have to be nearly that big if they want to make it smaller. The Lakers could trade one or both of Gasol and Artest for a smaller contract, gaining some salary and tax relief in the process, and they could also opt to use their amnesty waiver on one of those players. If they got rid of both with nothing in return, they would remove $27 million in salary and reduce their tax obligation by about $100 million, dropping the bottom line from around $215 million to the relatively miserly $90 million.

Can they make such trades? Their track record says that not only will they be able to get it done should they wish, but they will also be able to add talent somehow as they do so.

• Odom to Dallas, dropping their taxable payroll by about $9M? They also got the Mavs to give them a #1 pick to take the salary off their hands, and they got a trade exception they turned into Steve Nash.

• Getting rid of the useless contract of Luke Walton with another year remaining? They got a badly needed starting PG in Ramon Sessions, on an expiring contract to boot.

• Getting rid of the failed PG Derek Fisher with another year remaining? They got Houston to give them the young talented Jordan Hill for the privilege of buying out Fisher.

• To get superstar Dwight Howard? They gave up the highly paid but highly impaired Andrew Bynum, who hasn't played a game since. All in all, a ton of salary reduction, yet the Lakers still came out ahead in talent too, in every swap.

Smile
It's also important to note that any possible tax issue created by the Lakers re-signing Howard would only last for one year. Right now they have just one contract for 2014-15 and thereafter, the $9M per year contract of Steve Nash. Adding a max deal for Howard puts the 2014-15 payroll (and later years) at about $31M, far below the tax line of $70 Million plus, leaving more than enough room to avoid any further tax if they so desire. No biggie.

Of course, if you're the Mavs, you still have to be ready "just in case." Having come this far in their quest for a superstar alongside Dirk, they'll preserve enough cap space to be able to take a run at him this summer, and hope for the best. Maybe he'll get fed up with a frustrating season. Maybe the Lakers will run out of payroll room. Maybe he'll decide he wants to be in Dallas rather than Los Angeles. Maybe he'll tire of playing second fiddle to Kobe. Maybe something else will turn the tables.

But don't count on it.

Make no mistake, on a Monday that featured a third straight Dallas win and Cuban's assertive remarks, there is reason to eyeball this team as a buyer.

"We're letting everybody know the Bank of Cuban is open," Cuban said. "And if it's the right deal, we don't mind taking back money. But we're not going to do a trade just to do a trade. It's got to be worthwhile."

"The Bank of Cuban'' joke is an old one around here. It used to refer to Dallas' willingness to toss a $3 mil check into any transaction as a "sweetener.'' It can mean that again. It can also mark Dallas' willingness to accept salary ballast along with a trade for somebody like DeMarcus Cousins. And maybe ultimately, it means being financially competitive with the big spenders.

Big spenders like the Lakers.

Specific to Dwight: In LA, he gets Hollywood, the glitz and glamor, the Lakers' track record in trades, their history of titles, that spot on center stage, and all the extra money. In fact, without naming the place, he's told us that he's already decided where he wants to sign and play.

So that's that, and it's over. Time to move on.

As we have learned so well from his time in Orlando, once he decides what he wants, he never changes his mind.

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