Mark Cuban claims Mavs didn't try to get back at Knicks for Jalen Brunson saga

New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks
New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks / Brian Fluharty/GettyImages

With the Mavericks in the NBA Finals, fans have wondered how they made it there. Dallas finished as the fifth team in the conference, so it's not as if it fought in the Play-In Tournament like Miami did last season. Many assumed the Thunder, Nuggets, or Timberwolves would represent the West on the NBA's biggest stage, but the Mavericks prevailed.

No, the reason isn't because Dallas tanked at the end of 2022-23 for a high draft pick. If the Mavs had fallen out of the top ten, the New York Knicks would've had the pick. Mark Cuban and the front office used that pick to trade back and select Dereck Lively II, who has played a key role in his rookie season.

The NBA fined Dallas $750,000 for tanking. Before the Finals began, Adam Silver said he thought the punishment was appropriate.

When New York Post's Stefan Bondy asked Cuban if the Mavericks tanked to get back at the Knicks for signing Jalen Brunson in free agency, Cuban denied that Dallas tanked in the first place.

"We never tanked anything,” the Mavericks owner said. “We just decided to play our younger players the last couple of games. But it’s [general manager] Nico Harrison’s and mine’s and [coach] Jason Kidd’s job to make the tough decisions. Nobody who decides to rebuild effectively likes it. When you play your young players, it’s not always fun. So we just felt it was time to go young."

Mark Cuban, via NYP

There's no question that Dallas tanked, but Cuban wouldn't say that. He framed it as "going young" when the Mavs still had a shot to make the Play-In Tournament. Even Luka Dončić wasn't happy with the decision.

Mark Cuban said he has no problem with Rick Brunson and Knicks

Most people labeled the contract an overpay after Jalen Brunson signed with the Knicks in 2022. When the season started and Brunson quickly proved it wasn't, blame shifted toward the Mavericks for letting the point guard slip through their fingers.

After Dallas' dud of a season, Cuban made it seem like the Mavs never got a shot at re-signing Brunson, which couldn't have been further from the truth. The star guard said he would've signed a four-year, $55 million extension with the organization on a couple of separate occasions, but they never offered it. Meanwhile, the Knicks were clearing cap space to sign Brunson.

Cuban even took a shot at Rick Brunson (Jalen's father) and blamed him for things going wrong in Dallas.

"Where it went south was when Rick took over, when the parent took over, or parents took over," Cuban said."

Mark Cuban, via ESPN

Bondy asked Cuban if the Mavericks purposefully tanked to get back at the Knicks, to which Cuban claimed they didn't.

"I got no problem with [Rick]. When we played you guys, I saw him and said, ‘Hi.’ Shook his hand. What’s done is done,” Cuban said. “You can’t hold grudges in this league. There’s just like no point. The guy you hate is going to be your best player tomorrow."

Mark Cuban, via NYP

Dallas traded for Kyrie Irving before the 2023 deadline, a widely criticized move. Irving is the second-biggest reason the Mavericks are in the Finals, even though he's yet to show up through two games. If Dallas re-signed Brunson, the Irving trade likely never would've happened.

In the end, New York got what it wanted: Brunson. The Knicks aren't in the Finals, but the 27-year-old has what it takes to get them there. Mavericks fans are elated with their team's current position (minus the 0-2 deficit), but so are Knicks fans. New York has built something special, and the best is still yet to come.