- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Mark Cuban has found a new way to be the NBA Executive of the Year.

Instead of making the key move to help his own franchise, Cuban, the dot-com billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, made the moves that helped three other teams.

Cuban was an easy mark last summer, acting as the benefactor for three lottery teams: the Phoenix Suns, Seattle SuperSonics and Washington Wizards.

First, Cuban offered point guard Steve Nash a five-year, $45 million deal. The Suns offered him a six-year, $65 million deal. Cuban called the offer “crazy” because Nash was 30 and past his prime.

Nash is averaging 15.7 points and 11.1 assists for the Suns, who have the second-best record in the league (38-11).

The Nash negotiations were no time for Cuban to be preaching fiscal responsibility. Maybe Nash won’t be an All-Star during the last season of his deal, but Cuban never will find out.

Cuban then signed 29-year-old center Erick Dampier to a seven-year, $73 million deal. Talk about “crazy.” While he has posted five consecutive double-doubles, Dampier is averaging 9.1 points and 8.6 rebounds this season. He is no Steve Nash.

Cuban wasn’t done. He signed Marquis Daniels to a six-year, $37 million contract after a rookie season in which he averaged 8.5 points a game.

The Mavericks owner then traded Antawn Jamison to the Wizards on draft night for Jerry Stackhouse and the rights to Devin Harris.

The Wizards should send Cuban a thank-you note.

Jamison is averaging 20.4 points and 8.2 rebounds for the Wizards, who are playoff bound for the first time in eight seasons.

A month later, Cuban traded Danny Fortson to the SuperSonics for Calvin Booth. Fortson is the dirty-work enforcer for the otherwise finesse-reliant Sonics (32-13) — the third team Cuban helped turn around.

Fortson is averaging 8.7 points and 6.0 rebounds. He is a year younger and a whole lot cheaper than Dampier.

Cuban is smart and savvy. But he doesn’t have a clue about basketball. He has become what George Steinbrenner was in the 1980s. He is throwing money around but in all the wrong places.

Cuban is slowly dismantling a team that won 60 games and came within two games of the NBA Finals two seasons ago. Nick Van Exel is still peeved at Cuban for ruining a good thing.

Cuban started buying into conventional wisdom. He started believing the Mavericks had to be structured differently with a traditional center.

And the Suns, Sonics and Wizards have been the better for it.


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