Sometimes, it feels like the height of Lakers exceptionalism to believe that the rest of the league is rooting against the team in purple and gold. Other times, other people around the NBA outright admit to having those feelings.
Mark Cuban has always been forthright about his opinions regarding the Lakers. He famously posited that the team should consider amnestying Kobe Bryant before he tore his Achilles. He also was one of the first to suggest, and this one stings a little, that there was no reason to believe that the Lakers would have similar levels of success after Dr. Jerry Buss passed away, given that he was one of the greatest owners in professional sports.
Nowadays, Cuban is just happy that the Lakers are doing worse than his team, the Dallas Mavericks. In classic Cuban fashion, he isn’t afraid to comment on that matter, as he did to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin at an event in Los Angeles this week.
“The more screwed up they are, the happier I am,” Cuban told ESPN. “But I feel that way about every other franchise not in Dallas. We all go through it. Every franchise goes through cycles, and when your down cycle hits you, it’s never fun.”
Nevertheless, there is a fraternity of majority partners of NBA teams within the league who all generally support one another, and Cuban’s general interest in watching the Lakers lose doesn’t extend to watching Buss suffer at the helm. He understands how challenging it can be to preside over a franchise that is struggling, and to watch a beloved superstar end his career on a lottery team, especially after fans have grown accustomed to a certain level of success.
“I feel bad for Jeanie, personally, because she’s a great person,” Cuban said. “I have no sympathy for the Lakers any more than they had sympathy for us.”
Cuban hasn’t had the best luck working with the Lakers over the past decade. He called trading for Lamar Odom “by far the worst” personnel move he had ever made for the Mavericks. Furthermore, he was burned by a former Laker when Derek Fisher asked for a release to be closer to his family in the 2013 season and then signed with Oklahoma City, a clearer contender. It certainly seems like the sting of those moves continues to impact his affection, or lack thereof, towards L.A.
Both teams find themselves in a similar situation now, as the Lakers and Mavericks have each been in a state of irrelevance in terms of their basketball product over the past few years. But while it seems perfectly normal to ask Cuban about the goings on in Los Angeles, it would be rather strange to ask Jeanie Buss her opinion about Dallas, which Cuban acknowledged:
”That’s just the nature of the beast,” Cuban said. “If certain players weren’t at the Lakers, you wouldn’t be having those same conversations. You weren’t talking about it the previous five years. There’s just a lot of big names associated with them, and that makes it different.”
The Lakers certainly enjoy being a part of the national discussion, even if they’d rather have people talking about their basketball team. But as long as that team isn’t good enough to be part of that conversation, rest assured that’s something Cuban will continue to enjoy (and tweak the team about).