By Shaun Powell, NBA.com
Posted Feb 15 2010 7:20AM
DALLAS -- He failed to get an invite to skills contest, was totally ignored for the dunk contest, didn't even suit up for the All-Star Game, and yet can someone please explain how Mark Cuban just walked away with the MVP of the weekend?
Oh, yes, he did. And it wasn't even close. Until he accepts the Bill Russell trophy for winning the NBA championship, the final gift for a man who has everything, this weekend will stand as his second-most satisfying NBA moment, next to the day he purchased the Mavericks.
History will forever reflect how 108,713 fans showed up last night at Cuban's flock party, more famously known as the All-Star Game. And while the largest crowd to witness a basketball contest was certainly made possible by the House That Jerry Jones Built, it was Cuban who saw the process through, from beginning to blissful end. Then again, the man has a reputation for taking concepts that no one else saw and spinning gold.
But he didn't just help the NBA, which certainly benefitted from the priceless sights of Shakira rattling her cage and LeBron James floating lob passes to Dwyane Wade. Cuban also put the Mavericks in position to possibly throw a bigger party in late June by signing off on a weekend deal to strengthen the roster.
"It's been amazing," he said. "All I know is I've got to go back to the gym and work out, first thing. I eat when I stress. And I've had so much stress the last few days."
Well, there is stress, as in what David Stern and Billy Hunter will absorb in the next 18 months, and there's productive stress. The kind Cuban whipped up for himself. The All-Star Weekend was years in the making, the trade with the Wizards only a week in the works. Both allowed Cuban to own the NBA news cycle and take a few deserved bows right after Carmelo Anthony's desperate 3-point game-winning shot attempt went wide left as the buzzer sounded.
What emerged from the dust was the image of a more likable -- if not smarter -- Cuban. He was always a magnet for buzz, not all of it positive, since he barged into a Brooks Brothers owner's club wearing jeans and an untucked shirt. Perhaps, though, his rascally days are behind him, and referees assigned to Mavericks' games are safe. Whether intentional or not, Cuban's ideas and stewardship of the Mavericks are nudging themselves to the forefront, and this weekend only helped that notion.
"Mark had a vision," said Jones, "and his vision became a reality."
After selling Stern on the idea of putting the league's showpiece in a part-concert hall, part-sports bar and part football stadium, Cuban turned it into an event that pre-sold over 90,000 tickets. When a winter blizzard kept potential customers home on the East Coast and the South, Cuban held his breath until tipoff.
"When I heard about all the walkups, I got excited," he said. "And then the energy in the building was special. It was an All-Star Game that felt like a Final. I don't think we could've hoped for anything better."
He's already working on that, though.
"We've already had conversations about when we can bring this game back," he said.
Cuban must wait a bit longer to celebrate the trade. Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood were imported to rejuvenate a team that's only 7-9 since the first week in January. The Mavericks needed a shakeup, because Jason Kidd seems three steps slower and there was no sense wasting a year of Dirk Nowitzki's prime. The Mavericks weren't playing like a team with a pair of All-Stars and quality reserves. Dallas was in danger of falling behind the Nuggets and possibly the Thunder in pursuit of the defending champion Lakers, where the highway to the NBA Finals travels through.
"I think we'd like to get started and getting back in the hunt, back to where we should be," Cuban said. "We know we have a good team, know what they're capable of doing, and we're happy with our players. We're looking forward to finishing the season strong."
For now, Cuban will settle for ending the weekend strong. The artistic merits of the weekend can certainly be debated, but attendance and attention never really wavered. Unless you believe 108,713 went wrong somewhere.
"It's certainly something I won't forget too easily or quickly, not with what we just went through," he said. "Now we've just got to figure out how to top it."
A victory precession in June, ending at Cowboys Stadium, perhaps?
Shaun Powell is a veteran NBA writer and columnist. You can e-mail him here.
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