After his fall out with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, Dwight Howard became the most prized free agent in the summer of 2013. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had his beady eyes set on the big man. But things didn't turn out in his favor, triggering him to utter some choice words for Howard.
James Harden vs. Dirk Nowitzki
Among the five teams gunning for Howard that summer, the Houston Rockets, and the Dallas Mavericks were the ones who got a chance to pitch to Howard's agents in LA personally. After he received news that Howard decided to team up with James Harden in Houston, Cuban couldn't hide his frustration.
"Obviously, he made a mistake in judgment," Cuban said Thursday, a little more than 24 hours before the Mavericks play Howard's Rockets in Houston. "Do I blame him? No, that's what young kids do. They make mistakes in judgment," Cuban said, per ESPN.
"You choose teams. You don't choose players. If he made a choice off of an individual player, yeah, he made a mistake. You choose teams. You choose organizations. You choose coaches. And it's just not relative to Houston. That's just the way I look at it, because if he's that good, then the right organization …" Cuban added.
The gregarious Mavs owner was talking about what he thinks Howard's thought process on choosing the Rockets over the Mavericks. Cuban believes that Howard favored playing with the young superstar James Harden over the aging 35-year-old Dirk Nowitzki. Cuban doesn't subscribe to Howard's decision tree. If Howard was smart enough, he would've looked at the Mavs' track record at surrounding stars with the right pieces.
Cuban's frustration is understandable. He had been eyeing Howard since 2011, right after they won the NBA Championship. Around this time, Howard was also in a tiff with the Orlando Magic, as he believed the organization failed to surround him with the right players to win a title. He even requested a trade, preferring to go to the New Jersey (now Brooklyn Nets), Los Angeles Lakers, and the Dallas Mavericks.
The trade didn't push thru. But it was enough to entice Cuban to gun for Howard. He made the bold move of breaking up the core right after winning the 2011 NBA Championship. Tyson Chandler, a member of the Mavs championship core who got shipped out, explained Cuban's headspace for breaking up the team.
"I understand what he's (owner Mark Cuban) thinking. He's thinking about next summer and Dwight and D-Will and maybe being able to hit a home run and landing both. But the problem with that is if Dwight ends up in L.A. or with the Nets or anywhere else, it kind of shatters that whole thinking. Then I guess it's back to the drawing board," Chandler said, per nba.com via Bleacher Report.
We could say Cuban was right that Howard made a mistake. After all, the big man's stint in Houston didn't amount to much. He even became a journeyman of sorts for a few years. But Cuban isn't high and mighty either. After the radical decision of breaking up the core right after a title, the Mavs spent several mediocre outside the playoffs or inside it, only to be booted out immediately. But hindsight allows us to conclude that everything turned out well for both parties. Howard got his first title in 2020. Cuban got his Luka Doncic.