By EDDIE SEFKO / The Dallas Morning News
GRAPEVINE – On the eve of the free-agent hunt, Dirk Nowitzki was still smarting from the Mavericks' close call in the NBA Finals.
Part of the residual pain stemmed from owner Mark Cuban. Nowitzki talked about Cuban on Friday and how the owner's passion for the Mavericks is a double-edged sword that cut the wrong direction at times in the playoffs and particularly against Miami in the Finals.
"We all know that Mark is 100 percent all the time," Nowitzki said while signing 350 autographs for campers at a Mavericks' basketball clinic at Grapevine High School. "He loves us and he gets fired up once in a while. Well, all the time, really.
"Do I think it's a bit much sometimes? Yeah. He's got to learn how to control himself as well as the players do. We can't lose our temper all the time on the court or off the court, and I think he's got to learn that, too. He's got to improve in that area and not yell at the officials the whole game. I don't think that helps us.
"We all know what Mark brings to the team, how he supports us. We live with who he is, and we love him that way. But do I think it's good for us always? No."
Cuban did not respond to an e-mail.
Nowitzki, who is in line for a three-year contract extension that he called "a no-brainer" for both sides, said that his comments on Cuban are nothing that hasn't been said before. Nowitzki said he, Michael Finley and Steve Nash went to Cuban when the trio was still together and asked Cuban to tone down things.
It was suggested at that time that Cuban watch games from a suite rather than from his courtside seat near the Mavericks' bench. That suggestion was overruled.
The biggest sticking point comes from the work that coach Avery Johnson has done to get the Mavericks to stress accountability throughout the roster. During the final few games of the Finals, Cuban made a point to question officiating calls.
"He sits right there by our bench," Nowitzki said. "I think it's a bit much. But we all told him this before. It's nothing new. The game starts, and he's already yelling at them. So he needs to know how to control himself a little.
"If you get a bad call, keep playing hard. That's what Avery put in our heads. So I don't believe the refs messed up [in the Finals]."
It was the first trip to the NBA Finals for Cuban and just about everybody else in the Mavericks' organization. They will all learn from the experience, Nowitzki said.
Nowitzki also said he's leaning toward playing for Germany in the World Championships in Japan in August, but he has yet to make a final decision. He plans to return home to Germany next week after a few more days of hanging with friends and a trip to Las Vegas, which has become something of an annual rite after the season.
And while the team begins the search for free agents, Nowitzki said the Mavericks' prime contributors have earned the right to try to get back to the NBA Finals. The key to that is to get himself, Jason Terry and Josh Howard under contract long term.
"I haven't thought of that much at all," Nowitzki said. "I heard that I could extend, and that's obviously a great thing. I love being here. I love being a Mav. And obviously, we all love Mark.
"Really, it's a no-brainer. But I want to think about some stuff and get away from basketball. If I sign an extension, I can sign it up until October. I don't have to sign it on the first of July. So I'll go home and go through some stuff."
Whenever it happens, it will keep Nowitzki in a Mavericks uniform through 2011. The extension would be worth about $59 million for three years.