DALLAS -- Mark Cuban stubbornly insists his apology isn't an apology. Maybe that's because after 12 straight Mavericks playoff seasons, he's unpracticed in the art of the mea cupla. But the realities are undeniable, as is Cuban's position. 'If someone's got a shot to take, take it at me,' he says. 'My job is to make sure we put everybody in position to succeed and we obviously didn't. It's on me.'
How many times in the last 12 years has Dallas Mavericks needed to apologize? How many times has he needed to take blame? How many times have circumstances forced him to admit basketball wrong-doing?
Check the archives. A dozen straight NBA playoff berths, 11 straight 50-win seasons, two NBA Finals appearances and a world title serve as evidence that this franchise doesn't have many reasons to apologize to its fans.
"Look, it didn't work out the way we planned," Cuban says. "It's all on me and (GM) Donnie (Nelson). It's our job to put people in position to succeed. We didn't do enough of it. I bust my ass to do as best as we can. No one hates losing more than me."
The Mavs were officially eliminated from playoff contention on Wednesday (due to a home loss to the West-worst Suns). Friday's 108-105 OT win over Denver means Dallas bobs back near .500 at 39-40, and with three games remaining in this lost season, concluding the year with a winning record seems an emtpy consolation.
Dallas' mediocrity is delivered with reasons -- or, if you prefer, "excuses." It can be argued that last summer's free-agency courting of Deron Williams was botched. It can be argued that Dirk Nowitzki wouldn't have opened the season by missing 27 games due to knee surgery had he undergone the procedure earlier. It can be argued that the dismissal of the temperamental Delonte West created a season-long void at point guard.
It can be argued, simply, that the Tyson Chandler-keyed deconstruction of the championship team has now twice been followed up by Cuban and Nelson's re-contruction of rosters that, relative to what this club's historically done, stink.
Cuban has convinced himself that somewhere in those 40 losses are potential wins. He says first that had Dirk not been injured, Dallas might've been a fifth or sixth seed.
The truth is, that's pretzel logic; besides the fact that Dirk and the Mavs themselves chose the timing of the surgery, this franchise is now built almost completely around a 34-year-old who almost inevitably will have injury issues.
Expecting The UberMan to play 82 injury-free games is a ridiculous platform upon which to build a contender.
Cuban's other thinking behind the chance for more wins in those 40 losses is about what we like to call "BBIQ." Dallas this year participated in a franchise-record 11 overtime games (including Friday). The Mavs are 3-11 in those games. They also have 13 losses in games decided by five points or fewer.
"I'm proud of the effort, I'm just not always proud of the basketball IQ," Cuban says. "When you see dumb plays, sometimes they look like lack-of-effort plays when they're just dumb. We definitely need more basketball IQ."
Well, and more basketball talent, too. And the "24-hours-a-day" commitment that Cuban pledges to pour into what he hopes will be a "quick rebuild." And then ... success of some sort, enough so that Mark Cuban won't again have to fidget his way through a non-apologetic apology.
I'll keep on busting my ass," Mark Cuban says. "And hopefully it will change