Before we start this morning's Mavs-Heat what-up recap, we can go no further before mentioning Mark Cuban's appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman last night. Gotta say, the man held his own with the Letterman, who seemed to have no idea who Cuban was--hence, the host's question about whether he's "really a billionaire," the recitation of fines slapped on Cubes by the National Basketball Association, a discussion of that long-ago Dairy Queen stint, the recapping of how Mark made his money and the question about whether the Mavs struggled through the team's first season without MVP Steve Nash (Cuban had to correct him, explaining that Nash has been out of Dallas for two years--and, besides, he didn't play like an MVP when he was a Mav and now "he's home watching," so good riddance). Makes you realize that outside of Dallas, the Mavs' owner is about as well known as, oh, Dan Snyder is outside of Washington--which is to say, well, just not that well. Cuban also shared with Letterman a story about Donald Trump--he's "our billionaire," Letterman said; "and you can keep him," Cuban said--and explained why, during the NBA Finals, he strolled out on the Ed Sullivan Theater stage wearing on national TV a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey. Guess he's sorta buds with Ben Roethlisberger, who wiped out on his motorcycle Monday and got banged up. "Stupid," Cuban said of his the Steelers' QB, but with a mile-wide grin.
Of course, the only thing about Cubes' Late Show appearance the gets much press this a.m. is his dig at Heat coach Pat Riley, which was pretty benign as digs go the night before Game 4 of the Finals. Says the Associated Press: "Mark Cuban took a shot at Miami coach Pat Riley"...yeah, with a water pistol. You judge:
"I've tried to make it more fun, but we've changed the rules around some. I mean, the game got to a point where it really, it slowed down, and then they went through a whole set of rules changes, which really helped, and then these past couple years, I really got involved to outlaw all the handchecking and all the beating up of guys on the perimeter, so now the game's gotten a lot smoother, so you've got superstars like Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki who can take the ball to the hoop without all of that old Knicks ball, the old Pat Riley stuff, where they'd just beat up on people. So, we changed it up some."
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My only question is, how did Dirk end up third on his boss' list--after D-Wade, no less? And after he kinda slammed Dirk during the Letterman stint, insisting that his missing a late-game free throw kinda-sorta cost the Mavs Game 3? And D-Wade's injured, right? Says so everywhere, including the Chicago Sun-Times, which is reporting, as are most papers, that after scoring 42 points Tuesday night, Wade "was hobbled by an injured left knee" at practice yesterday. Yeah, right; he goes for half a hundy tonight, at least. Methinks Wade and Udonis Haslem, who's supposed to have a bum shoulder, are lying.
So does Mavs coach Avery Johnson. Well, he doesn't say as much, but in the Toronto Star today the Coach of the Year says winning a series like this "just comes down to will"--as in, will Dirk make big shots and will Wade play lights-out. Either way, don't make parade plans just yet. That's just what columnist Mike Wise says in The Washington Post this morning:
"Believing in Dallas to win the NBA championship was never easy, and now the Mavericks have given us another reason to doubt them. Most of this concern has to do with Tuesday night, watching a superior team fold in the final minutes of a game it had won. It has to do with Dirk Nowitzki, cool as they come in the clutch, inexplicably missing a free throw with Game 3 of the NBA Finals in the balance."
Amazing the difference one loss makes in a seven-game series; you seriously expected a sweep, America? Did you? In the NBA Finals? Now, D-Wade's the stud who overcame his fear to play like a man on fire in Game 3, and Dirk's the timid choker who's about to let down his team in a big, big way. Expect more of the same tomorrow should the Mavs lose; should they go up 3-1, well, I'll be too hungover to write this thing tomorrow. --Robert Wilonsky