Mark Cuban and Maloof Brothers Conference Call
Q: Are the Kings looking for a little revenge on Sunday?
Joe Maloof: Oh yeah, absolutely. We were disappointed we lost that big game on Christmas Day, but the Mavericks have one of the elite teams in the NBA. Theyíre playing a lot better as of late, and itíll be a great game and we want to go out and win it. Itís important for us to get a couple of victories on the road because we have a six-game road trip that starts tonight against Cleveland.
Q: (To Mark Cuban) What has the rivalry with the Kings meant to you since you took over the Mavericks?
Cuban: Itís been personal. I know Joe and Gavin pretty well, and we like to tell each other that each of us is more competitive than the other and that kind of translates into our teams. Itís funny, we can hang out together, we can talk together, but the minute they throw up the ball, I hate those guys, and that translates to our teams as well because each of our teams have taken on our personality in that weíve worked hard to get to this point. We both took over teams that nobody respected until we got there, and weíve turned them around, but neither one of us has gotten to the Holy Land yet. Neither one of us has gotten to the championship, but weíve both invested heavily and have set our sights on getting there. We know that the road to the Holy Grail goes through Sacramento and they know that it comes through Dallas. Weíve seen it in our playoff battles. Each and every time we battle in the regular season, we know itís just a precursor and a preview to whatís going to come in to the playoffs.
Q: If Bruce Ratner decides to move the Nets to New Jersey, heís going to have to displace any where from 200 to 1000 families to get an arena built. Do you guys approve of such a thing?
Cuban: We just donít have enough information to be able to approve or disapprove anything. The reports were just in the paper the last couple of days, and like any other franchise move, Iím sure the league is going to do all of their homework, and present us with a package and give us the information we need to make a decision. But weíre not anywhere close to that point yet, so there would be no point on even commenting on it.
Q: Would you do everything you could, even if it meant an alternate site, to not affect the lives of so many people?
Cuban: The only thing I can do is read all the information thatís been provided and make an informed decision. If I commented at all, it would be completely uninformed and that would be a mistake.
Joe Maloof: Itís too early to make any kind of decision right now. We havenít seen any information regarding the transaction. We havenít opportunity to look at anything, so weíll just have to wait and see.
Q: Do you guys approve of the sale, regardless of the arena issue?
Cuban: Iíd approve it if theyíd move to San Antonio (laughter). From my end, itís way too early to have to even have the least bit of understanding. You canít comment. In some respects, itís analogous to what went on with Charlotte with the team leaving and a new team coming in. Thereís just so much information that has to be gathered, you canít make a decision without getting all of the information.
Q: Is owning an NBA team like any other business?
Joe Maloof: In some respects it is. In others, itís not. Of course, the salaries are not like a normal business. But you have athletes that are the greatest in the world at what they do. There arenít many people in the world who can do what they do, so they get paid a lot of money. I think our philosophy, as well as Markís, is to cater to the customer, take care of the fan, it works. Look at the numbers. Weíre going on our 203rd straight sellout and Markís sold out all of his games. It works when you take care of the fans. When you lose sight of the fans and you donít care about the sponsors and you donít listen to the people, thatís when youíre going to have empty seats.
Cuban: You have to treat your customers well. You have to treat your employees well. An athlete can be a free agent, but in the real world, if you have a sales rep that works for you and heís your best sales rep and heís responsible for 20 percent of your business, theyíre free agents as well and you have to know how to deal with them and take care of them -- just as you would do with an athlete. Iíll stand by this, and you have to make your decision, what type of company do you want to have, the most successful or just an also ran.
Q: (To Mark Cuban) Is it fair to say that you make changes quicker than most in order to improve the bottom line?
Cuban: Youíve got apples and oranges. You just donít mix and match pieces. At an IBM, you donít change the product line all of a sudden. You plan, but you have to be able to be opportunistic. Iíve said since I bought the team that weíre always going to be opportunistic, if the right opportunity comes along. The Kings have been the same. They certainly didnít turn down Brad Miller and nobody anticipated that would be the case. When they had to move with Keon Clark, they made the move. They might not have had any in-season blockbusters, but theyíve certainly pulled their share of great moves.
Q: With Chris Webber out of the lineup, Brad Millerís been a pleasant surprise and Peja Stojakovic is playing at an MVP-type level. Do you have any concern that when he returns either Miller or Stojakovic will regress a little?
Joe Maloof: We had a great opportunity this summer to pick up Brad Miller. We actually traded two role players Ė Scot Pollard and Hedo (Turkoglu) Ė to get Brad, and heís meant a lot to this team so far this year. Itís amazing how well weíve been able to play with him. I think when Webber gets back, itís going to be up to him. Heís a professional, heís been around for years and he understands that right now weíve developed a certain look for our team, or a certain chemistry, thatís really been successful. When he gets back, heíll have to adjust his game a little bit to what weíve been able to accomplish so far. We donít want this thing to get out of whack. And with Webber, I think heíll start and either Vlade (Divac) or Brad Miller will probably come off the bench depending on what Coach Adelman thinks is right. Itís just going to be a matter of him blending in with our team Ė weíve been so successful Ė and he understands that. And heís said that himself, that he wants to come back and not be a deterrent to our success.
Q: Could you talk about this budding rivalry that your teams have with each other?
Cuban: From our end, we think Sac has been one of the more dominant teams. Theyíve been consistent where weíve seen the Lakers go up and down some in the past couple years. The Kings continue to reload and reload and theyíre young enough; they continue to get better. We know that weíre going to have to be at our best and the Kings are a team that we respect incredibly. I think the other thing that makes the rivalry even stronger is that we both play comparable tempo and styles Ė itís get up and down the court. When talking to our guys, not only do they know that itís going to be a war and a great game, but itís going to be a battle of our strengths against their strengths. When we play other teams or they play other teams, the games might turn into halfcourt games and more mid-í90s basketball -- slower, lower-scoring games. But thereís nothing more exciting and I donít think thereís any more attractive matchup to watch than when the Kings play the Mavs. I think everybody in the NBA knows it, and all of our players know it, and all of their players know it. So, when you get the best of up-tempo against the best of up-tempo, anything can happen and I think that only adds to the intensity of the rivalry.
Gavin Maloof: Also, itís like Mark said: The basketball is unbelievable Ė the shooting, the passing, the running. Itís basketball at its finest. You look at the ratings this year for the NBA, weíre up in ESPN, weíre up in TNT, weíre up in the regional sports networks. All of the ratings are up because I think this year itís the most exciting year in the history of the NBA. With Dallas reloading, us reloading, Minnesota, San Antonio, the Lakers, LeBron, Carmelo, youíve got so many different storylines that the interest for the fan is at its highest. I think a game like us and Dallas really fits in well to the style of play that people want to see. And itís been exciting and you can see it in the ratings.
Q: Is there anything that you see that can be done to preserve your players who play overseas for their national teams in the offseason?
Joe Maloof: The more I think about it Ė Gavin and I Ė weíre against it. Itís too dangerous. We pay these guys tremendous salaries and to have one of them injured in one of those games would be devastating to our fans, would be devastating to the league and to us. I donít think itís a good move.
Cuban: With the exception of Peja really, with our guys and other guys around the league, itís been detrimental. I know Dirk (Nowitzki) and Steve (Nash) both got off to tougher starts this year. They both needed breaks and wanted more breaks. It takes a toll on their bodies because these guys are so competitive and plus they have to carry so much more load on their respective teams. Itís not like youíve got Ė like Steve Nash had a whole lot of help around him or Dirk Nowitzki had a whole lot of help around him. And at the end of the day, even Pop (Gregg Popovich) said in an interview that he saw it was taking a toll on the Tony Parkers and that impacts the quality of our product. Why in the world would we give our most valuable asset to another tournament knowing that when we have to offer our product it could potentially have a negative impact? Thatís just dumb business.
Q: Make a case that you have the top international player on your team, with Dirk Nowitzki and Peja Stojakovic.
Gavin Maloof: Of course Iím a little bias, but I think Peja is really coming into his own this year. I still donít think heís at his peak. Heís improved every year. His shooting has just been phenomenal. Iím blown away. I think everybody here is blown away at how great he is shooting the ball. But heís played a lot of minutes with Chris (Webber) out and we would like to trim his minutes down a little, but we are winning, so we have to keep going. Itís just amazing at the skill level at which he is performing. He works at his game. He shoots hundreds of shots after practice. Heís really a student of the game and he works at his game. Thatís why heís so good. Not to take anything away from Nowitzki, because he is great, too.
Cuban: Obviously, Peja is amazing and heís had an amazing year, but our guy is taller, prettier, younger Ö and knows how to play the saxophone. Thatís all you need to know.
Q: Talk about expansion, internationally. Do you agree Europe is the logical place to go? Are there any American markets that you think would support a team?
Gavin Maloof: I think expansion in Europe would be great. The league isnít ready for it right now; itís going to be years away. But weíve actually had a team in the World League; we owned a team in Birmingham, Ala. We played in Europe. The team would go over there and play four games. It was nice. It wasnít a deterrent and I think the players enjoyed it. I think it would be a good move, but I think itís a ways away. I donít think itís within the next five years, maybe 10 years. I think it could become a reality and it would be good for the league.
Cuban: I donít disagree. Itís obviously a potential marketplace, but as I said before we have to deal with what we have here first. Once we are excelling across all of our opportunities here in the U.S., then it makes sense to look to expand. I wouldnít be a big proponent of expansion until our ratings rival the NFL as an example, and I think our product is that good that it can. I think itís just a question of effort on our part to get there, so once we get our (unintelligible) nailed down here, then it makes sense to move out there. As far as expansion cities in the U.S., Baltimore possibly, but my first bet would be Las Vegas. Itís one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S., and I think it could absolutely support a sports team.
Gavin Maloof: I would second that. I think Vegas would be a great market. Itís the fastest growing city.
Cuban: And I know where all the teams could stay, too.
Gavin Maloof: We actually have big beds for all the teams.
Q: Can each of you make the case for who loves their coach more?
Gavin Maloof: We have a great deal of respect for Coach Adelman and what heís done. He doesnít get a lot of praise in the media like a lot of other coaches, but heís one of the top winningest coaches in the history of the NBA. We just donít feel he gets enough praise. But heís done an excellent job with Ö look over the last six years and our winning percentage is probably one of the highest in all of sports. Weíve had injuries. We had as many injuries as the Lakers last year. Everybody on our team was injured. So I donít know how he does it. He keeps everybody together, the offense running and he just amazes us.
Cuban: I feel the same way about Nellie. Nellieís success speaks for itself. We got into this together when things werenít going so well, and he was very open-minded in terms of bringing in additional coaches, bringing in Del Harris to work on different aspects of the organization, and that just continued to grow. What I particularly like about Nellie is he knows even if we might disagree at times, heís going to listen. That gives us the opportunity to learn from each other. Again, at the end of the day, he is in charge and heís been able to do things Ė as much as weíve changed the personnel Ė heís been able to integrate them and adapt to them and have them adapt to him and still end up with a better record every year than the previous year. You canít sing Nellieís praises high enough.