Big O Tires

Mark Cuban admits Mavs tanked, Adam Silver has some explaining to do

Mark Cuban admits Mavs tanked, Adam Silver has some explaining to do

In the olden days when the Mafia was at its zenith, the worst thing a made guy could do was talk out of school. They took an oath of silence, and anyone who yapped got capped.

Pretty simple rule, all things considered.

Those days are done, though. Bosses, or in our example sports owners, can’t wait to tell us about themselves and what they do and how they make the sausage that they pass off to you as breakfast.

The latest example of this is Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban telling Dan Patrick that the Mavs tanked games like fiends in 2017, going so far as to explain the already well-known machinery of the tank.

This is news in the way that the Donald Trump/James Comey memo is news – you already knew it, but seeing the admission and/or the paperwork somehow makes it worse.

At least it does to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who heard the interview and then spent much of the afternoon trying to figure out how to strangle Cuban over the phone.

But that’s his problem. He makes the big money putting up with 30 mega-narcissists who can’t help spilling secrets when their egos get involved – which is always.

And now Silver gets to explain to a skeptical public how maybe 10 to 15 percent of his league’s 1230-game inventory is not on the competitive up-and-up for quantifiable business and qualitative health reasons.

Understand this is not a plea for sympathy for Silver. He’s known these maniacs for decades, and he’s seen the change in franchises’ opinions toward the regular season for years. None of this is new to him, and he has no solution for any of it save the threat of relegation to the G-League, which has less chance of happening than America respecting its politicians ever again.

Still, to have Cuban blurt it out so cheerfully and brazenly, while refreshingly honest, is a bit of a jar to the sensibilities. He knows no lawsuit against him will ever fail because the batteries-not-included print on his team’s tickets don’t promise anything but an athletic contest. On that minimal standard, he is correct, and anyone who knows anything about the modern definition of customer service knows that the minimum is all you’re getting, and that’s only if you’ve kept the receipt and know the store manager.

Cuban is banking, and probably correctly, that fans hearing the news that what they already believe – that tanking is not only plentiful but an actual strategy – is actually true works to the advantage of the owners and the business. It’s the intoxicating peek inside the abattoir that appeals to the avid fan, and his or her need to feel in on the scam while being scammed.

Hey, it’s a psychology thing.

Cuban’s view, in fact, is probably closer to league orthodoxy than Silver is comfortable with, given that the draft lottery is the very telegenic by-product of tanking. The league has monetized the strategy of not giving it your all, and the Philadelphia 76ers its very embodiment.

Now tanking actually isn’t an effective strategy most of the time because there just aren’t enough generational players to go around. It is, however, the only sensible alternative to just being the Sacramento Kings, and Silver understands that part clearly.

So Mark Cuban showed us how the sawing-the-assistant-in-half trick works because that’s what he does. Adam Silver will fine him, nothing will change, and next year regular season venues will be littered with parachutes from teams bailing on their traditional customer responsibilities.

In other words, Cuban just told us in his best Lee Strasburg voice, “This . . . is the business . . . we’ve chosen.”

One thing is clear after Warriors' Game 2 evisceration of Spurs

One thing is clear after Warriors' Game 2 evisceration of Spurs

OAKLAND -- And with that, all the side narratives for the Western Conference Final died the grisly deaths they so richly deserved.

In a game so desiccated of drama that not even a Red Panda halftime could save it, Golden State Warriors eviscerated the already perforated San Antonio Spurs by a final score that can best and most cruelly be described as “32 Minutes Of Garbage Time.” The actual numbers for you pedants are 136 to the homes and 100 to the guests, but unless you were giving 36½, you don’t really care that much.

And while San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich explained the size of the loss as the result of an almost team-wide timidity, the Warriors played at a level that almost no team would have been able to match, let alone one with a shredded roster.

Golden State made all the points upon which you may rely for the remainder of this series. They defended too well. They pushed the pace too well. They created open looks and converted them too well. They were the direct antithesis of the Warriors who began Game 1, and did not let up even as the margin became the seventh-largest in conference final history, and the final total tied for fourth.

Oh, and San Antonio doesn’t do a good job of replacing their two best players when confronted with the previous paragraph. Or, according to head coach Gregg Popovich, when only one player engages with the task before them.

“The only way I can process this is that I think it’s not O’s and X’s or rebounds or turnovers or anything like that,” he said. “I think we’ve maybe felt it too much, Kawhi (Leonard) being gone, in the sense that, as I watched, I don’t think they believed . . . I don’t think they started with a belief, and it showed in the lack of edge, intensity, grunts, all that sort of thing. When you’re playing a team that’s as good as Golden State, you’re going to get embarrassed if that’s the way you come out.”

The only player he exempted from this analysis was Jonathan Simmons, who replaced Leonard in the starting lineup and finished with 22 points in 25 minutes. “He was one of the very few who came to play. Jon was great, on both ends of the floor, he was intense and he came to win for sure.”

But the fact that Simmons stood nearly alone was only San Antonio’s issue for one night. The more compelling truth is that the Warriors have pressed their post-Leonard advantage, outscoring the Spurs, 194-133, putting math to not only the matter of belief but the different in present talent levels as well.

“It’s funny you mention that,” said Stephen Curry (29/7/7 in 30 minutes), whose pull-up three seven minutes into the game gave the Warriors a double-digit lead that only bloated as time went on. “I was watching them right before the game, at the National Anthem, and they were having fun, pretty light on their feet, the normal pregame get-hyped moment. It looked like they were all in tune. But when the game starts it’s who wants to grab that momentum early and set the tone for the game, and I think we did that a little bit better tonight.”

So maybe the answer to the night’s most ridiculed question was 2:28 into the game, when Zaza Pachulia cut to the basket and dunked over nobody, or maybe it was Klay Thompson’s open-look 20-footer a minute later, or Curry’s second three with 4:52 left in the first that gave the Warriors their first double-digit lead. Pick a shot, any shot. The game came and went almost too quickly for the human eye, and the rest of the night was just a matter of waiting for the Inevitable Express to pull into the station.

That pace of domination by Golden State likely cannot be maintained as the series heads to Texas, nor does it need to be. The mesmerizing effect of style points is always greater than their true value.

But Golden State’s style is defined largely by its use of defense and pace, which it lacked through much of Game 1. Seeing its effects in Game 2 have probably refreshed in their heads the easiest way to, in Curry’s words, “to avoid getting into bad habits and keep our feet on the gas pedal.”

At this point, the likelihood is that this series will not see the light of next weekend. Popovich may get the belief he is looking for this weekend in San Antonio, but belief alone falls well short of the standard required to beat these Warriors. Belief can prevent this level of embarrassment, but in its present state San Antonio clearly struggles to master Golden State’s multiplicity of weapons.

Believe that.

By calling out Pachulia, Popovich wants people to know three things

By calling out Pachulia, Popovich wants people to know three things

Gregg Popovich sent his Zaza Pachulia-has-a-history message Monday, a detailed and extended review of Pachulia’s M.O. in the wake of Kawhi Leonard’s resprained left ankle which will cost him Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

Popovich also sent his usual unspoken-yet-clear “That’s a dumb question” snark-o-gram, but I suspect he did that just for his own amusement, especially after he finished with a request for a follow-up question that floored the house.

In other words, he chose Monday to love the media. He genuinely loves it with a utilitarian backhand, in much the same way that a proper artisan loves a good hammer and chisel. I mean, you like the tool and all, but you probably wouldn’t buy it flowers.

[RELATED: Gregg Popovich goes off on Zaza Pachulia: 'Totally unnatural closeout']

But Popovich had a tale to move, that of Pachulia’s culpability in Leonard’s game-changing injury early in the third quarter of Game 1. He wanted people to know the following:

(A) He’s quite irked about losing Leonard for Game 2 and perhaps beyond on what he believes was at best a cynical foul and at worst a dirty play.

(B) He expects that the officials for Game 2 (whom I am guessing will be Mike Callahan, Bill Kennedy and Ed Malloy, give or take a Pat Fraher) will take proper extrajudicial notice of the incident and somehow treat the Spurs with greater care.

And (C) he does not intend to go down 2-0 in this series without a fight on all fronts, including the psychological one.

So, with the mandatory humor-the-proles session Monday to be done anyway, he used it to best benefit and sent that three-pronged message. And he was probably grateful to have the opportunity, though he wouldn’t have needed permission to do so.

You see, Popovich, being the smart guy he is, knows that even painfully obligatory tasks can be put to use when needed, and he did so to great effect Monday, in large part because he meant every word of it. He thinks Pachulia is effectively clumsy in that Andrew Bogut way, and sometimes effectively extra-legal, also in that Andrew Bogut way. Pachulia is an industrial-strength center with the subtleties of a rhinoceros horn in the abdomen, because that’s how he got to stay in the league so long. You do what you gots to do, after all.

Popovich’s rantlet doesn’t heal Leonard’s ankle any faster, and may not even convince Tony Brothers, Sean Wright and Jim Capers, (give or take a Sean Corbin) to be any more mindful of Pachulia’s illusory subtleties. But looking at the hand is left to play, and then the Warriors’ hand, he realized that desperate times call for desperate measures.

Like needing the media for a few minutes – the length of a properly constructed rock song, and the outer limit of the modern person’s attention span.

In short, Gregg Popovich played the role left to him on the off-day between games. It’s all part of knowing what’s on the tool belt.