There’s a new Cuban Missile Crisis. It has to do with the shots that continue to be launched between Dallas owner Mark Cuban and Denver forward Kenyon Martin.
A movie was made on the 1962 crisis called “Thirteen Days.’’ The way this one is going, it might last a lot longer.
“He’s a coward,’’ Martin said Saturday about Cuban, a week after Cuban made an unflattering comment to Martin’s mother during a West semifinal series, with Martin believing Cuban has yet to apologize in an appropriate manner.
Meanwhile, Cuban admits he “made a mistake’’ in having apologized to Martin’s mother on his blog and not having yet done so personally in a timely fashion. But Cuban, in an e-mail to HoopsHype.com, wrote he wants Martin to take responsibility for his actions, which he wrote included calling a wife of a Mavericks staff member a “(expletive) fat pig’’ and making an obscene gesture.
It all heated up May 9 after Game 3. After the Nuggets won a controversial game in Dallas, when the NBA later admitted a foul should have been called on Mavericks guard Antoine Wright and a game-winning three-pointer from Denver forward Carmelo Anthony wiped out, Cuban was incensed. He passed by Martin’s mother, Lydia Moore, and has admitted saying “that includes your son’’ when a fan called Nuggets players thugs.
Martin had been fined $25,000 by the NBA and assessed a flagrant foul 1 for a Game 1 incident in which he knocked Mavericks star forward Dirk Nowitzki hard to the floor.
Following last Monday’s Game 4 in Dallas, the Mavericks’ only win in a 4-1 series loss, it has been reported Martin launched profanity in the direction of Cuban. Then, a few hours after that game, Cuban did get around to apologizing to Martin’s mother, doing it on his blog.
But that hasn’t sat well with Martin. Even though NBA commissioner David Stern has recommended Cuban apologize in a more direct manner, Martin said as of Saturday afternoon he knew of no additional apology having been made.
“He’s a coward,’’ Martin said about Cuban. “He couldn’t face it… You all read the only apology that he's made (on his blog)… The world got to see it before the person who it was meant for got to see it. That tells you how that goes. I ain’t never known nobody apology to somebody through other people.’’
Martin on Saturday was asked by HoopsHype.com about his actions following Game 4. But Martin declined to discuss them.
Cuban then was asked by e-mail about Martin’s comments on Saturday about him, and was informed about Martin not wanting to comment about what happened after Game 4.
First, Cuban wrote he erred in how he has handled the apology to Moore.
“I still intend to apologize to Ms. Moore,’’ Cuban wrote. “I made a mistake and will keep my commitment.’’
Later, Cuban wrote he believes Martin needs to address his actions.
“I would also like to know if Kenyon is going to take responsibility for his actions rather than hiding behind ‘no comment,’’’ Cuban wrote. “Will he apologize to the wife of our staff member that he called a ‘(expletive) fat pig’ immediately after Game 3? Will he apologize to fans that he threatened to, and I’m paraphrasing here, ‘(expletive) beat the (expletive) down’ during Game 4?
“Or to the fans he walked by after Game 4, (Martin) cursed and gave the finger to? Will he take responsibility for what he said and did? Is there some reason he has not?’’
Martin, though, has been willing to talk about Cuban. He said Saturday that, while he’s disappointed in how Cuban’s apology was handled, he’s trying to move past that.
“I don’t care,’’ said Martin, who said he was distracted and didn’t play his best in Game 4 because he said fans at American Airlines were “bothering’’ his mother as she sat directly behind the Nuggets bench. “Me and my mom ain't going to lose no sleep if we don’t talk to Mark Cuban. We’re going to lay our head down and sleep well every night.
“I’m still playing right now. (Cuban’s) got time to think about all that. I got games to win right now. So give (Cuban) time to think about (what he might do).’’
One thing is for sure. When the NBA schedule comes out in August, circle the games between the Nuggets and Mavericks.
The first big blow in the series came courtesy of Martin. With the Mavericks having taken a 12-9 lead midway through the first quarter in Game 1 and Nowitzki shooting 5-of-5, the burly forward plowed into Nowitzki on the baseline, sending him sprawling.
Martin was assessed a technical foul. However the following day NBA changed the call to a flagrant foul 1 and fined Martin $25,000 while rescinding the technical.
“I think it set the tone (for the series) for sure,’’ said Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups. “Nowitzki had hit four or five shots in a row earlier in that game to start off the series, and think (Martin) took it a little personally and let him know, ‘OK, this is how it’s going to be. Yeah, you probably will play good because you’re a great player. But it’s not going to be easy. This is how it’s going to be.’’’
The Nuggets showed early they would be by far the more aggressive team in the series. While those in the NBA office did not look kindly at Martin’s maneuver, there was a belief by some in the Nuggets camp it was a well-spent $25,000.
“That wasn’t what I was trying to do, but that seemed to be the attitude it took on so I had no problem with it,’’ Martin when told about Billups saying his knockdown of Nowitzki set the tone for the series. “You do what you're supposed to do. If we keep winning the playoffs, I’ll get that money back.’’
There is a World Wrestling Entertainment event scheduled for later this month at the Pepsi Center. But watching Martin fans sometimes feel they’ve already been treated to a steel-cage match.
“I don’t back down from nobody,’’ Martin said. “There’s not a person that has laced their shoes up and stepped on this court (that Martin is) going to back down from. No matter who you are. Championships or not. MVPs or not. Sixteenth man on the team. I’m going to treat you the same way. No matter what it is. I’m going to get after you.
“You’re going to know you played against me when you get done. That’s all I strive to do. Whether you play one game against me or 20 or whatever the case might be, my name will always come up in the conversation of who’s the toughest guy you had to play against. And I want my name to be mentioned.’
It seems Martin got some of his training from Michael Jordan’s original bodyguard.
When Martin broke into the NBA in 2000, he was tough. But he was no Charles Oakley.
But Oakley, then an aging pro who had broke into the NBA in 1986 as Chicago’s head henchman during the early days of Jordan’s brilliance, was around to show the young Martin how to throw his weight around while at least sometimes staying within the rules.
“Charles Oakley, hands down,’’ Martin said about the toughest player he ever faced. “You watch what I’m doing to these young guys, that’s what Oak did to me. (Oakley showed Martin) all of that stuff, man. He told me stuff that is legal to a certain degree.’’
Martin lives on the edge. He has received his share of NBA penalties over the years, but nobody ever hears his teammates complain about him.
“His presence is always felt on the court,’’ Billups said. “It’s never what he does offensively. It’s about his presence out there, his toughness, his grit and grind. We look for that. That’s a major component of our team.’’
With Billups providing leadership and passing, Anthony scoring plenty and Martin flexing his muscles, the Nuggets have advanced to the West final for the first time since 1985.
Enjoying the ride has been Nuggets coach George Karl, who been able to channel Martin’s aggressiveness in recent years at least toward the other team. In the 2006 playoffs, Martin was suspended by the Nuggets for launching an obscenity-laced tirade at Karl over playing time.
“I think the word we’ve used here is, and we’ve added veteran to it, is a smart toughness,’’ Karl said when asked if enforcer is the right word to describe Martin. “I think he’s emotionally involved, but I think he’s smart and I think he’s veteran. I don’t think he’s afraid of pushing the line. Bruce Bowen pushed the line every playoff series I’ve ever seen him (play with San Antonio).
“(Martin) pushed the line (against Dallas). Cuban pushed the line. But it didn’t get crazy. They professionally settled down into a way that somewhere along the way it’ll get settled.’’
The way things are going, though, it could take a while for this feud to settle down.