Diss Guy: A Rivalry in Texas starring Mark Cuban vs. Daryl Morey
What better place than Texas for a rivalry and who better to star in the center of this Lone Star State sparring session than rogue Mavs’ owner Mark Cuban and Houston Rockets wunderkind General Manager Daryl Morey? We’re only in October and already long-standing feuds are being renewed with references to old slights, cultural misperceptions, and front office faux pas. And this, this is the type of bad blood we need, the type of “I don’t like you, you don’t like me, let’s fight” rivalry that makes mundane Thursday nights on TNT turn into must-see TV for all in the ever-loving basketball universe.
The latest Morey vs. Cuban salvos were a counter attack from Morey in response to cultural and chemistry criticisms from the Dallas billionaire. In a melodramatic piece on Yahoo! Sports, writer and Coach K rival Adrian Wojnarowski wrote,
For months, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has unleashed a barrage of slights and snipes onto the Houston Rockets, framing the regime of general manager Daryl Morey in the most unflattering of ways. It has been an undermining, calculated campaign. Just understand this, though: No longer does it go unanswered.
Reading that opening paragraph from Woj, one almost wonders if it’s not the skilled hand of the dramatist penning the prologue of a Shakespearean spectacle about to unfold. Morey’s comments certainly can’t live up to the scene set by Woj, but the Houston GM at least left the florid language to the poets and spoke in contemporary terms:
I think [Cuban’s] pissed that we went after Dirk in free agency, however unsuccessful it was … I think he’s doing a smart thing to take on a rival … But let’s be clear: If the money’s equal between the Rockets and Mavericks, I think players are picking Houston. Every time. 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 … The choice was pretty obvious between the two teams. Dwight is the smart guy in this.
In taking an explicit, unveiled shot at Cuban’s franchise, Morey’s extending the rivalry in his pointed, but mostly harmless comments, but to be clear, this beef extends beyond the media and words. If you think Cuban’s dislike of Morey and the Rockets had anything to do with the big fat contract he gave former-Rockets forward Chandler Parsons this summer, then the conflict has extended into the realm of player personnel decisions and potentially altered previous paths. That being said, this is a rivalry with teeth, not fangs, more Nas/Jay Z (without “Ether”) than Biggie/Tupac and that’s a good thing for all involved. But let’s trace the issues back to the source.
Last summer, Morey, with all his probability-based notions and willingness to play the front office game well-within its bounds, but well beyond the bounds much of the league informally agrees to, made a play for Dallas’s heart and soul, Dirk Nowitzki. Cuban wasn’t just miffed about this, it seems he was livid (“I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” – can’t you just picture Cuban saying this? Chin tucked low, square face incredulous, so pissed off he has to get on the stair master and burn away the anger.), but had a chance for revenge with Howard’s free agency. When Morey won that round, Cuban couldn’t resist the urge and said, “Obviously, he (Howard) made a mistake in judgment.” Obviously that didn’t sit well with the Rockets. This past summer Cuban overpaid to get Chandler Parsons and somewhere in the middle of all that Dallas hired a front office guy by the name of Gersson Rosas from Houston. Rosas spent a couple months with the Mavs then returned to Houston. Suddenly it’s like we’re in the middle of an NBA soap opera with backstabbing, broken hearts, and a bunch of men with full heads of hair.
But let’s embrace this hate with all the bad blood and bile flowing through our systems. We’ve come a long way from the days of the Bad Boys and Robert Parrish clubbing Bill Laimbeer in the face without serious repercussion. We’ve all heard former players-turned-analysts lovingly reminiscing about the days when players were getting whacked in the head driving to the lane, but the notion that Karl Malone crushing Isiah Thomas’s face with a flying Louisianan elbow is part of any glorious golden age is misplaced. Trying to hurt an opponent is never a good thing, but a healthy front office dislike that trickles onto the court in the form of a rivalry between polite young men like James Harden and Chandler Parsons (but watch out for that Patrick Beverly!) is wholly appropriate. For a league that was rightly criticized for “Super Friends” a few years ago, we all need all the rivalries we can get and if Mark Cuban and Daryl Morey want to catalyze one, I’m all for it.
And you can bet your sweet ass that when Dallas takes that flight a few hundred miles southeast to Houston and matches up with the Rockets on Saturday, November 22nd, I’ll be parked on my couch, beer in hand, ready to drink up the bitter-tasting basketball poetry that only deep dislike and hatred can pull out of men.
Miss Guy: Annual Melo Misstep
Speaking of drama, will the headlines ever end with Carmelo Anthony? A few days ago, ESPN saw fit to splatter its sidebar headline with words Melo spoke to the ever-reputable king of “sources,” Chris Broussard: “I’m the most underrated superstar in the league,” which any athlete of Melo’s stature knows is a not-so-secret code for the me first athlete. Maybe Melo’s onto something, but unfortunately none of us can even agree on the definition of a superstar, let alone come to a consensus on who the properly-rated superstars might be. But as quick as ESPN and rest of the basketball media picked up the pull quote, Melo was back peddling quicker than that time he sucker punched Mardy Collins in the face during the ugly little Nuggets-Knicks fracas from 2006 (which strangely has its own Wikipedia page). On Thursday this week he sought to clarify those comments and told the New York Post that ESPN “took it and ran with it,” going as far as referring to the question as “a setup.”
Not-so-surprisingly, part of Melo’s explanation to the Post’s Marc Berman was that “I don’t even think about [being underrated]. If I start thinking about that, I’m losing focus on the task at hand.”
It’s impossible to know what the real Melo thinks or feels. It was a year ago around this time, just before the season began, that he told the New York Observer that he wanted to test free agency. A couple weeks later he was once again explaining to the Post that, “I want to retire in New York, I mean, let’s just be quite frank. I think a lot of people jumped the gun when I said I wanted to be a free agent.”
There’s a trend over this past year of Melo offering clarifications or revising statements, but it seems to happen more notably when criticism follows his comments. What of the comments that don’t grab the headlines?
In the same yet-to-be-shown interview with Broussard, the “setup” interview, Melo sets his sights on “These (analysts)” who he claims are “all people that maybe never accomplish anything. That just sit back and write articles all day long about what they see. They’re kind of living through us out there on the basketball court.” Aside from coming across as a petulant brat, Melo’s critiques are reminiscent of LeBron James’s comments after the 2011 Finals loss to Dallas when he infamously said: “All the people that was rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today.”
After being heavily critiqued for those comments, LeBron went out of his way to clarify what he actually meant (“Everyone has to move on with their lives, good or bad. I do too.”) – just like Melo did above. But in all of Melo’s comments and clarifications and the “setup” from old wily Chris Broussard, he didn’t back away from his criticism about “people that maybe never accomplish anything. That just sit back and write articles all day … kind of living through us.” Whether this is aimed at the basketball media, bloggers, or fans who support the league and players like Melo, we likely won’t find out because critique-worthy statements from Melo are typically accompanied with edited revisions.
Yep, Melo’s become infinitely reliable. We know he’ll get his 25-or-so points per night. We know he’ll be great on the offensive side of the ball and not-so-bad defensively. We know he’s one of the best pure talents of his generation. And he’ll even remind us of as much, “I know night in and night out I’m gonna go out there and put my work in regardless of win, loss, or draw.” And along with all that talent, we can now expect the annual honest-statement-taken-out-of-context from an underrated star who keeps finding ways to make the same mistakes.