Time to go?

Time to go?

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Time to go?

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Sam Smith - Icon Sports MediaMark Cuban is a smart guy. I know this because I hear him tell everyone that. I find it difficult to challenge since he knew when to get out of the dot com boom and became a billionaire. I had no idea when to dump my newspaper stock and now am writing for basketball web sites. Good ones, mind you. But I am working. Cuban is dancing, with stars and just in general, it seems.

Last week, he was at Wrigley Field in Chicago sitting with maverick Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell, sparking once again all kinds of talk in Chicago about Cuban purchasing the legendary baseball Chicago Cubs.

The conventional wisdom has been that baseball owners, having watched the NBA basically fine Cuban more than Rasheed Wallace, won’t vet Cuban and allow him anywhere near their sport.

Now, with Zell the hellion looking to maximize profits on selling the team and stadium, you can be sure no matter what baseball says, Zell will feel entitled to the biggest bid. He’s the kind of entrepreneur to fight for it and in the American way warn baseball that its antitrust exemption doesn’t allow it to ignore the top bidder, no matter how bad his TV dancing may be.

The conventional wisdom (by the way, who are those people?) also has been Cuban doesn’t have the money, estimated at perhaps a billion dollars, to get into baseball in Chicago. Not in a sport without a salary cap. Not while also running the Mavericks.

See where I’m going here?

Is it time for Mark Cuban to cash in again? I can see – thus far my speculation – Cuban trying to sell the Mavericks to step up into baseball and one of the elite franchises in American sports history. One that is stocked with talent poised for a great run, where Cuban can even enhance his sports reputation. It’s Cuban’s kind of bold, headline-making move.

Chicago or Dallas? C’mon. Get real. Cuban is from Pennsylvania and went to college in Indiana. He’s a lifelong baseball fan. It’s a better environment for wardrobe of Cuban’s t-shirts.

Few know better than Cuban when to sell high and buy low, and now would be the perfect time to dump the Mavs and trade up to the Cubs.

Look, the Mavs are done. Did you see how happy Avery Johnson was to be fired?

No, they’re not an expansion team or a perennial loser, but their run is over.

Though Cuban and I have differed on his real impact given the team was on the brink of breaking through when he bought it, Cuban did some great things in Dallas. He helped get a beautiful new arena built. He involved the fans and scared the heck out of the local media. He should run for governor with that record.

But the Mavs maxed out and have been in decline since blowing that Game 3 fourth quarter lead in the 2006 Finals.

They’re out of the playoffs in the first round for the second consecutive season and looking for a new coach, said to likely be Rick Carlisle. They took a calculated gamble in trading for Jason Kidd, and it didn’t work. Look, they knew the window was closing and they took a shot. I can respect that, even if it didn’t work.

It’s over for this Mavs’ group.

Five of their top six players, including Jerry Stackhouse as sixth man, will be at least 30 for next season. Three are at least 34. They’re one of the league’s oldest and now slowest teams. They gave up too much youth and future in draft picks for Kidd.

The West is changing. The Hornets are young and athletic. The Trail Blazers could emerge if Greg Oden is healthy. The Lakers look like they have a run in them if Andrew Bynum can return to health next season. The Mavs as now constituted look like a team that’s going to struggle just to make the playoffs and be an easy out for the next several years. They’ve won at least 50 games for the last eight seasons. That’s a longer run than most get. It’s over.

And knowing Cuban you figure he knows. Give the man this: He reads markets well.

You don’t get to be much of a media star with a declining sports asset.

What a great time to sell, especially with the Cubs beckoning, a team with no championship for 100 years, a team that’s loaded with talent, just as the Mavs were when he Cuban bought them. It’s the chance to be a hero in one of the world’s great cities and media markets. Imagine how famous Cuban could then make himself, which, after all, seems to be what he is most about.

There was opposition among NBA owners to Cuban at the time he purhcaed the Mavs. Many had heard of his antics and iconoclastic personality. But commissioner David Stern couldn’t resist. It’s generally understood around the NBA there is regret they accepted Cuban given the way he has bashed and questioned the league so often. But Cuban offered to pay way more than the Mavs were valued at. Ownership equity increases like players’ salaries. It was just too tempting.

Once someone is paid something, that becomes the basis for that talent, the NBA definition of market value. Samuel Dalembert gets $64 million. Now Tyson Chandler wants $65 million because his stats are better. So Cuban pays some $280 million for a franchise valued at perhaps half that and Stern sees equity increasing for everyone with a new market set.

So what if Cuban makes an astronomical offer for the Cubs, one of those offers you can’t turn down?

Zell is certainly a character and non conformist. He owes no allegiance to baseball owners. Friends say though he is a minority partner in the Chicago White Sox, he doesn’t even like baseball. He has a massive debt to finance in purchasing Tribune Co. You can believe he’ll take the highest offer for the Cubs and Wrigley Field matter who makes it. You also figure he’d love to make baseball explain why it wouldn’t accept the best offer if it is Cuban. How does Congress sanction that with baseball’s antitrust exemption?

No one wants to get into that fight.

Though for a billionaire, Zell needs money now to service that huge debt. He’s not likely to want payment dragged out in a legal fight with baseball over its right to select the new Cubs’ owner. Of course, Zell also seems fond of telling people where to go just to show how rich he is and they aren’t. He’s is unpredictable. After all, who buys a huge media company in this environment?

As for Mark Cuban, you’ve got to figure the NBA, especially in Dallas, is a sell now. And MLB might well be the buy. Mark Cuban didn’t get rich sitting on declining assets.

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