Psychological warfare between Dallas and San Antonio has begun in full earnest.
The two old rivals are locking horns in the postseason for the umpteenth time, and with critical Game 2 looming (tonight at 9.30pm ET), both sides are trying to gain an advantage anyway they can. For Mark Cuban, this apparently means baring his soul.
Cubes told the assembled media how he truly feels about the Spurs organization. From the Express-News:
He still hates the Spurs. It’s a respectful loathing, but still hatred. “I hate the Spurs,” Cuban said. “I have a hard time being civil to (Spurs majority owner) Peter Holt at the Board of Governors meeting, and he has a hard time being civil to me, even though we like each other.”
The fact that the Spurs blocked the Mavericks’ path to the NBA Finals in a memorable 2003 Western Conference finals, and that the teams have hooked up in two more playoff series since then has established the Spurs as Dallas’ No. 1 rival. The four NBA championship trophies Holt displays at the AT&T Center stoke Cuban’s odium, as well. Still, the Mavericks owner believes the mutual contempt has been good for both franchises.
“It’s just what it represents,” he said. “We can both be 0-80, and if those last two games are Spurs-Mavs, it’s going to be like a playoff game because we dislike each other that much. It’s crazy that in the nine, 10 years of playoffs, in five of them, we’ve gone through each other. It’s unfortunate because they’re always great series, except for maybe the first one, after we beat Utah. That was the only blowout series, though we did get the last game in Reunion (Arena), which was nice.They’ve been dogfights.”
OK, so it’s not true hatred. Just grudging admiration, and perhaps a bit of championship envy. Nothing wrong with that.
Gregg Popovich, meanwhile, did his best yesterday to plant the seed in referees’ minds that Dirk Nowitzki — who shot 12 freebies in the series opener — is getting to the free-throw line a bit more than perhaps he deserves: “Sometimes we fouled, sometimes we didn’t. That’s going to happen in a game. You’re going to get calls one way or another, and he’s great at selling it.’ Not exactly the stuff of Phil Jackson, but food for thought.”
This series has the potential to go the distance, giving both sides plenty of opportunity to entertain the masses on and off the court.