NEWARK, N.J. – The Mavericks had a verbal commitment from Peja Stojakovic three weeks ago and expect the scrutinized Alexis Ajinca trade to be approved by the league office Monday.
This according to Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who gave reporters a blow-by-blow of the Stojakovic buyout and Ajinca trade after Dallas beat New Jersey 87-86 Saturday night on a rim-rattling, game-winning shot by Dirk Nowitzki.
Cuban said when Caron Butler went down with a season-ending knee injury in early January, he called Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo and asked if Toronto would be interested in buying out Stojakovic, who has barely played for this season. Colangelo replied, “’We’d like to try to trade him first, but yeah,’” said Cuban, who asked for and received permission from Colangelo to speak with Stojakovic’s agent, David Bauman.
Mavs GM Donnie Nelson expressed his interest in Stojakovic to Bauman and said, “‘If you can work out a buyout with the Raptors, would you come to the Mavs?’” Cuban said. “He goes, ‘Yeah.’ So he basically had committed to us weeks ago.”
After the buyout was completed and Stojakovic was waived, Cuban said Colangelo inquired about Ajinca.
“He says, ‘What about Ajinca?’’ Cuban said. “Are you guys still interested in trading him and paying his salary?’ OK, well yes. Same amount of money, not playing a lot, so we did the trade. They were completely separate independent deals. One had nothing to do with the other. But obviously I think a lot of teams were upset because we got the jump on them. And that’s legit.
“You’re allowed to call teams,” Cuban said. “Teams are calling the Nets and saying, ‘Are you going to buy out Troy Murphy?’ … That’s just the way it works. That’s how you get what they call divorce contracts, because if he doesn’t know where he’s going to go, he doesn’t know how to do the buyout.”
After receiving complaints from rival teams that the trade was an illegal side deal aimed at circumventing the salary cap, the league office refused to rubber-stamp the Ajinca trade. Cuban said he was at the NBA office in New York when all of this was going down, and that he showed league officials his text-message trail substantiating his chronology.
“The trade goes through and (Stojakovic) signs the contract Monday,” Cuban said. “… I expect it. I mean, it’s the NBA, but you know, that’s what I expect.”
UPDATE: Cuban also said he met with Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov Saturday night and put on his best Russian accent to relay what Prokhorov allegedly said to him: "I must break you." Cuban was joking, but he wasn't joking when he said he told Prokhorov he's "great for the NBA."
"He's ballsy, he's smart, he does it this way and doesn't give a ___ what other people think," Cuban said.
Apparently unable to stop himself from making news as he stood in the doorway to the visiting locker room at the Prudential Center, Cuban then took aim at the officiating -- mentioning a series of questionable calls, the most egregious of which no one in his audience noticed.
"There were some bizarro calls out there," Cuban said. "That was a bizarro game. Are you kidding me?"
Cuban said in the second half, Nets forward Kris Humphries used the support structure on the back of the backboard to pull himself up to elevate for a tip-in.
"You guys didn't see that?" Cuban said. "There was tip, and the support behind the backboard, he pulls himself up and tips the ball in. That was crazy."
Cuban also marveled at another instance when the Mavs' DeShawn Stevenson didn't hear the whistle for a timeout and was knocked to the floor. No foul was called because it was a dead ball.
"If you hit a guy and knock him on the ground, just because the one guy didn't hear the whistle doesn't mean you have carte blanche to put him on the ground," Cuban said. "I mean, that's craziness. Another time, a guy does a jump-stop and then takes a step. ... We'll see. If it wasn't so sad, it'd be funny."
It's neither, really. Just another night in the NBA.