The Dallas Mavericks‘ front office has long been looked upon as one of the most stable in the NBA. Who could question that, given the fact that now former General Manager Donnie Nelson and former head coach Rick Carlisle had been firmly ensconced in their respective position for eons? While their second consecutive first round playoff ouster hurt, one could only assume the organization would look to improve their roster and roll it back next year.
Well, an explosive article written by The Athletic’s Tim Cato and Sam Amick published on June 14th depicted a volatile situation at the very top of the Mavericks’ hierarchy. Basically it describes a power struggle between owner Mark Cuban, Nelson, and their director of quantitative research and development, Haralabos Voulgaris.
The Dallas Mavericks are in an unprecedented state of front office turmoil.
While Voulgaris isn’t exactly an unknown quantity–he made his millions gambling on sports and playing poker–I’ll admit that I’d never heard of him until this article hit. Further, despite his nebulous title, Cato’s and Amick’s piece portray him as a man who holds far more sway with Cuban than anyone previously knew, and that might be the factor that led to Nelson’s and Carlisle’s departures.
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From my perspective, there’s no “might” about it. As more details have emerged, the reports that Nelson left on his own accord turned out to be untrue. A second article by Cato and Amick published on June 17th described Nelson’s desire to have Voulgaris “stay in his proverbial lane”. Cuban and Nelson got crossways, and this reportedly led to Nelson’s outright firing. For an organization that projected such stability, the Mavericks have had an alarming amount of dirty laundry aired publicly. To wit, a day after Nelson “left”, Carlisle announced he wouldn’t be back next season despite two years remaining on contract.
It all paints an unflattering portrait of a franchise in full panic over their long term prospects of holding on to their young superstar Luka Doncic. Now, while Doncic was positive about signing his super-max contract extension before next season, he can’t help but feel concern about the circus of the past week. This is especially true given the fact that Cato’s and Amick’s first article came out and said that Doncic and Voulgaris aren’t exactly on friendly terms to begin with. To say that the transition is off to a rocky start is an understatement.
And this doesn’t even touch on Cuban’s ultimate role in this whole scenario. Was he not reading the room correctly, or did he knowingly facilitate a hostile takeover of his play-pretty? He’s been quiet after proclaiming the whole thing “total b******t” upon the release of the initial Cato and Amick piece. He even tried to snow the fan base over by abruptly bringing Dirk Nowitzki back as a special advisor in their search for a new GM and head coach. Weird times abound.
In the meantime, the Mavericks have to navigate NBA free agency and the next draft with some very important and new pieces in place. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when they reach out to any potential acquisitions. People are going to talk and more details are going to emerge. It will be supremely interesting to see if anyone wants to join a carnival sideshow that’s proven to be as insane as their in-town football cousins.