As has been discussed in this space many times, Mark Cuban is not a fan of NBA players participating in international basketball tournaments for their countries because there is nothing in it for the NBA ... and there is nothing but profit for bodies like the IOC.
But that doesn't mean he's anything but supportive of the players themselves. We've seen it for years with Dirk Nowitzki and Germany ... and now we're seeing it with Harrison Barnes and Team USA (if he'd ever actually play) and we're seeing it with Andrew Bogut and Australia.
“If it wasn’t right, I’d put my hand up and I’m on a flight back home. It was good enough to play,” Bogut said. Cuban “has been great. We have a great relationship via email and via text. The whole thing was, if you feel like you’re 100 percent, and you feel like your knee is a go, we’re going to support you. I couldn’t ask for a better organization to give me that confidence.”
Now, you did have a level of "scare'' on Wednesday as Team USA hung on for a 98-88 win over the Aussies ... and by "scare'' I don't mean the closeness of the score. Rather, knowing that Bogut exited the NBA Finals with a knee injury (a "bone bruise,'' which sometimes threatens to be much more serious than it sounds) ... well, you sort of gnaw nervously on your jersey as you watch him.
But he looked very active here, involved in pick-and-rolls on offense and rim-protecting on defense ... and the sort of leadership that is part of what he brings to Dallas.
"We're disappointed," Bogut told reporters after the game. "The Australian media is saying, 'You guys did great.' No, we didn't. We lost. We're not going to take moral victories. They're the best team in the world and we battled them and we thought we should be in a better position to grind out a closer game."
When most of us watch, we're rooting for Team USA (right)? But I find myself rooting for challenges, too, and this qualified. The Americans stumbled early here, as they did the game before in what would eventually be a blowout of Argentina. And maybe there will be another challenge, because while Carmelo Anthony (31 points) was largely unstoppable, other Americans like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were inefficient in their production. So that next "challenge'' to 3-0 Team USA might come from this same Aussie team. Once the US gets through preliminary action, we get to the medal round ... and maybe the Americans meet the Aussies again, featuring Patty Mills (30 points) and Matthew Dellavedova (a double-double with 11 points, 11 assists and six rebounds) and most of all Bogut (12 points on 7-of-9 shooting with three blocks), who has Dallas (and Cuban) rooting for him. ... again, because you see some of the same attitude from him in Rio that you want brought to the Mavs.
"That's kind of the attitude change we've had with this group of guys," Bogut said of the Aussie feistiness -- a direct result of his personality. "Whereas in the past, you know, you get within 10 or 15 points of the U.S., you get a birthday cake and walk around and say this is the best day ever."
Team USA won and Bogut looks healthy for a fun-to-watch Aussie team. It wasn't the best day ever ... but for Cuban and other MFFLs, it was a positive one.