Cuban: Nowitzki Staying Put

Dallas — Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had a heart-to-heart talk with Dirk Nowitzki last week.

Cuban’s message to Nowitzki was clear.

“I told Dirk we’re not going to trade him,” Cuban said before Saturday’s victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. “He was happy. I think. I wanted to make it clear to him. I said, ‘We’re in this through thick and thin,’ and so there’s no way I would trade him.”

Nowitzki has voiced his displeasure with the Mavericks’ struggles this season. He is disappointed that players such as Tyson Chandler, Jason Terry, J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Corey Brewer, and Jason Kidd are no longer with the team.

The Mavs won the NBA title in 2011, but Cuban said he decided to let a lot of those players go so he could sign several players to one-year contracts. Cuban believed that strategy would allow the Mavs to remain flexible enough under the salary cap to sign a top-level free agent.

Cuban also believes some teams may be handicapped next season under the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement.

“One of the reasons you take a step backwards salary-wise is so you can take on salary,” Cuban said. “I think because the rules have changed, there are teams that literally are going to have guys going in that if they’re over the cap and the tax-plus level, they can’t do sign-and-trades.

“So it might be, ‘OK, we better get somebody now because literally we can’t sign-and-trade this guy anywhere, or we can’t take anybody back in a sign-and-trade.’ Hopefully that will play to our advantage, so you can’t avoid looking at sign-and-trades.”

The Mavs are hopeful that Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, who can become a free agent this summer, is available, because they believe he’s the one player who can turn around their fortunes.

“I’m not going to do a trade just to do a trade, even if it’s a star,” Cuban said. “Which means that now it’s just hard to find just one guy who puts you over the top. So it’s just got to be somebody who gets us to a point where we can get back on track to where we want to be.”

Cuban defended the one-year contracts he signed his players to as strategically necessary to keep the Mavs financially stable and in position to reap the benefits of the new collective bargaining agreement.

“The year we won you guys all came to us at the start of the year, and said you think it’s going to be a problem that you have all these expiring contracts,” Cuban said. “It’s just the way we planned it, and we just made the decision to stick to our plan, no matter what.

“No excuses. It just hasn’t turned out (good) so far this year. And I say so far, because anything can change.”

Cuban is a strong advocate of his team’s culture trending in a positive direction.

“Culture is critical in the locker room and in the organization, and you’ve got to have somebody there to set the tone,” Cuban said. “Culture is not just about winning, culture comes in when you’re not playing well. That’s why culture is important. If anything, this is a reflection of they’re still playing hard.”

“We’re getting better, we’re making progress. So if anything, they say character is revealed not when you’re winning, but when you’re losing, and I think this is the same thing.”