Part of the story is who is missing: Dirk isn't playing yet, and Marion's out as well. (Oh, add…
Deron & Dallas & Dead Horses
DB.com covered "The Pitch'' in meticulous detail, even outlining key points well in advance of the meeting. Dallas Mavericks owner Cuban's absence at the meeting, conducted by Rick Carlisle and Donnie Nelson and including Michael Finley, has also been detailed. Enough water has passed under the Brooklyn Bridge that Cuban's even had time to claim that he wasn't all-in on the potential acquisition, and that his "Plan Powder'' Mavs might just be better off for having failed to seal this deal.
Yes, much has already been written on this subject. But today, the situation earns some of our reflections:
Is Deron serious? Yes, the question was leading but according to reports, Williams was put off by Cuban not being there to "answer a lot of [his] questions."
I think he would have been able to answer a lot of the questions me and my agent have for him that really didn't get answered that day pertaining to the future," Williams told reporters. "And I think if he was there he would have been able to answer those questions a little bit better. It maybe would have helped me ... (know about) the direction of the future of the team, other than Dirk. Players they were thinking about. Everything was basically just their track record, trust their track record, which is, you know, I can honor that, because they do have a good track record but it's not enough for me, especially when (Nets GM Billy King) was updating me daily.''
Really? While Cuban has been and should be grilled for sticking with his commitment to the "Shark Tank'' TV show (the reason for him not traveling to the New York area at the beginning of July for the free-agent session), we always assumed two things:
One, Nelson and Carlisle were completely equipped to illustrate the Mavs' plans for Deron, on and off the court.
Two, if there were "questions'' to be posed, the magic of telecommunications would oblige. And indeed, it is our understanding that the two were in contact in that manner.)
So was it really about ‘answering questions,' or was it something else?
Feelin' the Love
Williams makes a subtle, but telling, comparison in one of the reports:
"Of course (Cuban's absence had an effect)," Williams said. "My top four when I was coming out of high school was Illinois, Georgia Tech, Tennessee and Maryland. … Maryland told me they wanted me to come on a visit but Gary Williams wouldn't be there. So I told them, ‘It's OK. I'd rather not go.' So that was that. It's similar."
This suggests a desire to "feel wanted'' -- something that is so often cited by athletes during recruitment. If Williams wanted the show – "the dog-and-pony show'' that has become the industry standard – and the involvement of upper-management and to feel wanted, then Dallas dropped the ball. Furthermore, it was Dallas' job to determine what style of courtship would work and to utilize that style. We appreciate a no-nonsense approach; that's the way Dirk Nowitzki handled his involvement. And maybe Dirk read it right. Maybe Deron didn't come across to him as a dog-and-pony kind of guy.
So what if Deron's "they-didn't-love-me-enough'' announcement is a way to avoid admitting it came down to money?
Squandered Strategic Advantage
It bears repeating: Cuban's absence from the meeting did represent a squandered advantage for Dallas. The Mavericks benefit from having not only one of the smartest owners in the NBA, but also one of the most passionately involved. His absence from the Deron pitch meeting – a rare opportunity to lure a superstar to Dallas, with the added edge of Dallas being his hometown -- undermined both of those reputations.
This is the second reason Deron has cited for not choosing Dallas. First it was the Nets' acquisition of Joe Johnson and his bloated contract, a deal Dallas officials actually thought would work against Brooklyn. Now it seems that Cuban's absence is the latest excuse for taking a longer contract, more money, and the city of New York over Dallas.
Ultimately, we can go back and forth forever with "what-if's'' and counterfactual hypotheticals. We will likely never have access to Deron's innermost thoughts and what truly swayed his decision to choose the Nets over the Mavericks. Likewise, we may never have Cuban's innermost thoughts on this one that got away. (Even as he claims Dallas is better off with the deal having gone undone, a notion that, as you see here, we attempt to be receptive to.)
There is one thing we know for certain, however: As much as many of us think it's time to just move on, the subject is due to be raised at least twice more this year. Because that's how often Deron's Nets are scheduled to play Cuban's Mavs.