Cuban: Should Thunder tank season?

ByTim MacMahon ESPN logo
Monday, November 10, 2014

DALLAS -- Mavericks owner Mark Cuban openly wondered Sunday whether it would be in theOklahoma City Thunder's long-term best interests if superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook sat out the rest of the season.

Cuban said he would not consider it a breach of NBA integrity if the Thunder essentially bagged this season to improve their odds of winning a title in the near future.

"The question I don't think anybody has asked is, why don't they pull a David Robinson and try to get Tim Duncan?" Cuban said, speaking before the Mavericks hosted the Miami Heat.

Cuban was referring to the 1996-97 San Antonio Spurs, a 20-win team that played a critical role in laying the foundation for the franchise's five NBA championships.

Robinson played only six games that season, missing the start of the season with a back injury and sitting out the remainder after breaking his foot in late December.

As a result, the Spurs' seven-year playoff streak was snapped, giving them a lottery ticket that turned into the No. 1 overall pick in Duncan. The Spurs won their first title two seasons later.

"We already specialize in a race to the bottom," Cuban said. "More participants won't change anything. They're all high-profile participants."

Thunder coach Scott Brooks laughed off the thought of sitting his stars when asked about it after Sunday's 101-93 win over the Sacramento Kings.

"I didn't see those comments, but no," he said. "That's funny, though. But no, we've got a good group of guys in here. It's fun going into games knowing we're going to play with great effort, that we're going to be throwing our bodies all over the floor, that we'll be diving on the floor for loose balls, and that's what our fans want to see. They understand we've had a lot of injuries. ... They know it, but they like what the guys are doing. They like that the guys are competing, that's what makes fans proud of our group."

Asked if maybe Cuban had an ulterior motive in wondering out loud about the Thunder tanking the season, Brooks said, "Ya think? There's a pretty good team north of him."

The Thunder, who have advanced to at least the Western Conference finals in three of the past four seasons, have stumbled to a 2-5 start after Durant underwent preseason foot surgery and Westbrook suffered a broken bone in his right hand during the second game that also required surgery.

Durant and Westbrook are both expected to be sidelined at least another month. As competitive as the West is, the Thunder might not be able to overcome a poor start to make the playoffs.

Hence Cuban's curiosity about whether the Thunder's wisest move would be for Durant and Westbrook to sit out the rest of the season. In that case, Oklahoma City likely would land one of the premier players in the upcoming draft class, adding another potential franchise cornerstone.

"I'm not suggesting anything," Cuban said. "I'm just curious why the question hasn't been asked because I'm curious what the answer is."

The Mavs faced a similar situation in 2012-13, when Dirk Nowitzki underwent preseason knee surgery and Dallas had its 12-year postseason streak snapped. Dallas was 12-15 when Nowitzki made his season debut, fell 10 games under .500 within the next two weeks and had to fight to finish 41-41.

"I don't know, it would be a tough call," Cuban said when asked whether he'd want Durant and Westbrook to miss the rest of the season if he owned the Thunder. "When Dirk got hurt, we didn't. But it's a little different.

"Because I had a lot of one-year guys and we had to see who we wanted to keep. And I never thought he'd be out that long. Honestly. I thought he'd be back at the start of the season, and then one week, two weeks, it kept dragging on. We never would have gotten to No. 1, and he never would have sat out the whole year. So I'm glad we did it the way we did because I like the fact I've never had a losing season."'s Royce Young contributed to this report.

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