It is not uncommon, for teams that share the same state, to engage in bitter rivalries, which is exactly what Daryl Morey has found out through the last few years. Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks has engaged in a one-sided war of words with the Houston Rockets General Manager, Daryl Morey, who finally heats up the feud with a blunt rebuttal of his own. If the rivalry between the two Texas teams were not already at an all-time high, they certainly are now.
Beyond the obvious of Houston and Dallas coming from the state, there are two reasons for the increased rivalry between the two teams, both of which occurred during last season’s offseason. The first strategy of Morey’s that got under the skin of Cuban is when the Rockets GM texted the Mavericks owner about the possibility of franchise player, Dirk Nowitzki, being traded to Houston. Without question, the idea that anyone would inquire about the possibility of Cuban letting go of the cornerstone of his team made his blood boil. While Cuban has not been loyal to many past Mavericks’ players including Steve Nash, Michael Finley, Jason Terry, among others, he has made a point that he would never trade the German.
This rivalry between both executives does not end with the Rockets inquiring about Nowitzki. During the summer of 2013, the Mavericks were in the running to sign top free agent Dwight Howard. Unfortunately for Cuban and his franchise, despite clearing enough cap space to bring the center to the Mavericks, Howard elected to sign with the younger Rockets team. As a result of missing out on, possibly, the best center in the league, Cuban was irate. Not only was it the second summer in a row where the Mavericks were unable to sign an All-Star alongside Nowitzki, but he lost the player to his state rival.
In further proof of Cuban’s continued disdain of losing Howard, the billionaire owner recently stated that Morey’s ideology is about numbers and not chemistry. It is that wording that drew fire from Morey, who rarely takes jabs at others in the media. In his first bit of retaliation, Morey cited Cuban’s hypocrisy after the owner let Tyson Chandler walk, despite the center being a principle reason for their championship in 2011.
Morey is not far off in his pointing out of the ill-conceived failure of keeping Chandler on the Mavericks. Without Chandler, Dallas went on a steep decline by barely making it into the playoffs with a 36-30 record in 2011-12 and missing the playoffs completely in 2012-13. It has not been until this offseason, when Dallas brought back Chandler in a trade, that the Mavericks have been talked about as contenders.
The second shot fired by Morey relates to Cuban’s criticisms of Houston focusing more on analytics. In his retort, the GM pointed out that Cuban has tripled his analytic staff. This is another truth about Cuban that Morey pointed out in his rant against the Dallas Mavericks. While it may seem hypocritical of Cuban, it also speaks volumes on how the billionaire has succeeded in getting into the head of a rival GM. Cuban is one of the most outspoken owners, not only in the NBA, but in all professional sports. He knows what he is doing when he is stirring the pot.
The differences between the two executives got fiercer this offseason. However, while it is likely that the feud heats up between the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks after Daryl Morey’s comments, it may not be as competitive as one may think. What may have truly aggravated Houston is that it is Dallas who stole away the up-and-coming Chandler Parsons early in the offseason. On July 13, the Mavericks signed the forward to a three-year deal worth $46 million. By signing the former Rocket, it gives Dallas a nice starting trio of Nowitzki, Parsons, and Monta Ellis. Not only does the transaction give their franchise player more help offensively, but Parsons is a perfect fit for the defensively-minded coach Rick Carlisle.
Morey has no one to blame for Parsons jumping ship other than himself. Prior to the offseason, Houston had a choice to make. On one end, they could keep Parsons for a little under $1 million, where he would be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Their other choice would be to not pick up the option, which would make him an unrestricted free agent. Houston took the latter and did not pick up his contract, in hopes to sign him for more years for a smaller package. The problem is that Parsons elected to go to Dallas for $46 million. Considering Houston was also in talks with Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, they let the forward go. Worse yet for Houston is their pitch to Anthony and Bosh failed, resulting in them losing out to one of the top free agents.
Luckily for Houston, they managed to snag the older, but competent, Trevor Ariza. While he certainly will help fill the hole that Parsons left, it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth of Morey, who could have had one of the top blossoming forwards in the league. Considering Dallas is the one that pulled Parsons away, juxtaposed to Morey’s miscalculation, is likely the underlying reason to the GM lashing out at the Dallas owner. The games will definitely have that added heat come this season when the two play. However, it is questionable whether or not Houston is even in the same league as Dallas, who are one of the few possible title contenders in the Western Conference. On the other side, one has to wonder if Houston took a step back in the rankings.
Mark Cuban is the master instigator. He has proven so after the last decade or so, whether his goal is to fight fellow executives or even the commissioner of the NBA. Morey has mostly kept quiet through his tenure as GM, despite putting together a franchise which has made waves of potential over the last few years. One thing is for sure, the feud between the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks heats up when Daryl Morey fights back. Whether or not Morey is right in his assessment of Cuban or if his squad stands a chance against the Mavericks, it could be argued that the Western Conference leaders go through Texas, with the addition of the San Antonio Spurs.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey