Mark Cuban heard it in the offseason, just as everyone else in the basketball world did — grumbling from Knicks fans concerned that the team had drawn the short straw in the NBA Draft by landing Kristaps Porzingis at No. 4 overall.
“I love Kristaps,” the Mavericks’ owner said Monday night before his team faced the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. “Everywhere I went that I’ve dealt with New York basketball fans, they were like, ‘Oh, man.’
“I’m like, ‘Man, you don’t understand. We would have traded up in a heartbeat to get that kid, and we loved him.’ ”
That would have been a big trade up for the Mavericks, who had the 21st pick. But they came closer to another future Knick they coveted, Jerian Grant, who ended up going 19th, two spots before the Mavs got Justin Anderson.
“It was a toss-up between Justin Anderson and Grant, and if he would have fallen, it would have been a coin flip as to who we would have taken,” Cuban said. “And the guy [the Knicks] took who’s overseas, we wanted him, too.” (That would be the 35th overall pick, Willy Hernangomez.)
“So of the three guys that we wanted on our board the most, the Knicks got all three.”
Cuban is aware that Porzingis widely has been compared to the Mavericks’ future Hall of Famer, Dirk Nowitzki, a player Porzingis has said he long has admired.
“We’re huge fans [of Porzingis],” Cuban said. “Obviously, people are going to compare him to Dirk because that’s what everybody likes to do, compare.”
Cuban said it would be unfair and inaccurate to compare Porzingis to another former Knicks sensation, Jeremy Lin, who worked himself from obscurity to an NBA job. Porzingis arrived with a far more lofty profile.
“Porzingis is the real deal,” said Cuban, who added that while he is a Porzingis fan, he had polished off his high school Russian and had his “Russian insults all packaged up to start screaming at him.” (Porzingis is Latvian.)
Cuban rejected the notion that it is good for the NBA to have a high-profile rookie star in New York.
“A couple of years ago, I would have bought into New York and L.A. having to be strong, but not so much anymore,” he said. “In the social media environment where everything is so connected, it’s not really the case any longer at all.
“But it’s good for New York. It’s just good to get people excited and New York’s a great basketball town and the Garden’s a great place to play, and I think it’s best for Carmelo [Anthony], if anybody. It’s going to extend Carmelo’s career and take a lot of stress off him.”