Running into a Cuban hurricane
On Sports • Mavericks' opinionated owner can get worked up during a workout
DALLAS - An hour and a half before Monday's Game 5 of the Trail Blazers-Mavericks series, I decided to seek out Dallas owner Mark Cuban to request a short interview.
'You'll probably find him riding a Stairmaster in the Mavericks' locker room,' one of the Dallas writers told me.
Sure enough, there Cuban was, just beginning a workout. I asked him if he'd mind if I asked him a few questions, and he said, 'Sure, fire away.'
Cuban had made the news when he got hit by some sort of projectile in the fourth quarter of Game 3 at the Rose Garden. I'd heard some repartee between the Mavericks' colorful owner and Blazer fans may have precipitated it, but the only quote I'd seen from him was, 'Somebody hit me in the face. Somebody threw something and it hit me.'
I started the interview by asking Cuban if he knew what hit him.
'I got hit by something,' he said, pleasantly enough. 'All I know is the pretty lady next to me jumped, something hit me in my face and that was it.'
Any idea what the object was?
Suddenly, Cuban's mood darkened to the color of the Dallas sky (tornado warnings) that afternoon.
'What the (expletive) does it matter?' he asked. 'Does it make a damn bit of difference at this point?'
'Well, I …' I began.
'Does it make a damn bit of difference at this point?' Cuban repeated.
'You sound irritated by it,' I said.
'Yeah, because it's a dumb-ass question,' he said. 'What's the point of bringing it up? Are you going to go find somebody? Are you going to hunt the person down? … Ask me a real question.'
Gee, Mark, I thought that was a real question.
'The question turns into something antagonistic to somebody,' he said. 'Either you try to get me to accuse somebody of something …'
'I'm not trying to get you to accuse anybody of anything,' I broke in. 'I'm just trying to get the story on what happened in your words.'
'You could have read other accounts, because about 50 people wrote about it,' he said.
By this time, other writers had joined us by the Stairmaster. Uncomfortably, one of them offered a question.
Then it was back to me again.
'How disappointing was it to lose Game 4 the way you did?'
'Obviously, we hate losing any game.'
'I mean, the way you lost it, losing the big lead.'
'That's just one game.'
'Do you feel OK about the team going into tonight's game?'
'No, I think I'm going to quit. I'm not going to let the team play,' he said, sarcasm dripping.
At this point, Cuban smiled and changed directions. He apologized. Even called me by name.
Then he shifted gears again, explaining his reason for unloading on me.
'It's just the same ol' (expletive) over and over,' he said. 'The same thing comes up, the same bit of (expletive). So I apologize for being a jerk, but at least have some respect. Not repetitive, asking the same stuff over and over. That stuff's been asked 50 times.'
I guess, I offered, I could ask about his love life.
'That would be more interesting,' he said.
After another question or two from other reporters, I decided to try again - and frankly, I didn't expect him to like the next question, either.
'There's speculation that (coach) Rick Carlisle is in trouble if you lose this series. How do you …'
'Why don't you speculate?' he said. 'I'm not going to. The reason I get upset, because there are all these cliché questions, and you go down through them, one after the other. I find that disrespectful, that you couldn't put in enough time to ask something new.'
Uh huh. And the Japanese thought they were hit by a tsunami.
Cuban tossed a couple of more insults my way, even using a 'both teams play hard' reference. Give him credit there for knowing his Rasheed Wallace/media history. He had kind of a wild look in his eyes when he said it, actually. He was really getting worked up.
'If all you're going to ask is cliché questions, why would I waste my time answering them?' he asked finally.
'Well, I don't think I'll waste my time asking any more,' I responded, leaving the scene.
I didn't get to some of my questions. I intended to ask whether his dialogue with Portland fans may have led to the projectile incident. Whether he harbored any ill feelings over it. If he thought the Blazers had more of a homecourt advantage because of their more rabid fans. His thoughts on Paul Allen, the Blazers' owner.
Maybe if things had gone well, I'd have moved on to global warming, or the economy, or pressed him on his love life.
Cuban's an opinionated son of a gun. It's been years since I'd interviewed him, but I'd enjoyed talking with him before. Guess my questions were better back then.
Or perhaps it was just bad timing on my part. I'll bet he'd have been in a better mood a few hours later, after his Mavericks destroyed the Blazers to take a 3-2 lead in the series.
Maybe I will try again tonight at the Rose Garden. Before the game, of course, not after.