There appears to be trouble in paradise, and it takes the form of a “shadow” general manager named Haralabos Voulgaris.
According to a recent report by The Athletic’s Tim Cato and Sam Amick, there is apparent frustration between Luka Doncic and Voulgaris, a former gambler who Mark Cuban hired as the director of quantitative research and development in 2018.
However, his listed role in the organization severely understated his practicing duties. He has routinely been the most influential voice in the Mavericks’ front office, either initiating or approving nearly every deal over the past two seasons, according to The Athletic’s report.
The reason Dallas’ “shadow” general manager matters is due to the strained relationship he possesses with Doncic. The two have reached multiple inflection points, and according to The Athletic’s report, there is an “inflamed relationship between the two.”
And in the backdrop of Dallas’ two first-round exits in back-to-back seasons, there is a worry that the strained relationship may cause Doncic to start searching for greener pastures. But that conclusion by the report, and by Mavericks fans, simply doesn’t make sense. Let’s look at why.
Doncic in context:
The report came out just a few weeks removed from Doncic’s exit interviews, where he hinted at signing a supermax contract extension that would go into effect after the final season of his rookie deal.
The contract would be worth upwards of $200 million over the course of five seasons, meaning he would contractually be in a Mavericks uniform for nine total seasons since his draft day.
“I think you know the answer,” Doncic said with a smile when asked about signing the extension this summer.
Though Doncic apparently has a strained relationship with Voulgaris, he remains eager to sign an extension in Dallas. Maybe it’s because of the ridiculous dollar amount the extension presents? Or maybe it’s because he wants to win in Dallas? Either way, once he signs the extension he will be under contract for at least half of the next decade. If the relationship with the team executive is really that bad, why would he be so eager to resign, when with some contractual maneuverability, he could reach unrestricted free agency in the next few seasons?
It makes no sense for Doncic to give up the leverage with the organization if the situation is really heading towards being untenable.
Mark Cuban’s choice words:
Once the report was out early Monday morning, team owner Mark Cuban quote tweeted the story saying it was “total bull—-.”
He then went on to speak to Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks, telling her “I pay close attention to what Luka says, what the front office, analytics group, and our scouts say.”
He added, “The idea that there is a shadow GM is laughable.”
Any team owner goes to great lengths to defend his organization after a report like this surfaces. However, it’s important to note that Cuban also stated he wasn’t approached for a quote in the story, but he is, in fact, quoted in support of Voulgaris’ work within the organization.
This is neither here nor there. If Cuban spoke to Amick and Cato in approval of Voulgaris’ work, great. If he didn’t, then someone is lying. But in the end, it doesn’t matter. If Voulgaris is really threatening the organization’s chances at keeping Doncic on the roster, he’ll be the first one fired once things get bad.
No NBA team is choosing an executive over a generational talent. It’s that plain and that simple.
We are talking about Cuban, the same man who said he’d get a divorce before letting Doncic walk out on the Mavs.
It’s INSANE that Mark Cuban actually said this about his wife and Luka 💀🤣 pic.twitter.com/k0WUc4jk97
— Mike Korzemba (@mikekorz) June 14, 2021
There is no feasible way he allows a strained relationship with a “shadow” general manager to end Doncic’s tenure in Dallas.
The report should be troubling, but not concerning:
The report is troubling, not because Doncic is on his way out of Dallas, but because it managed to leak out in the first place.
The mark of a healthy franchise is every executive being on the same page. You don’t see leaks like this from the Suns front office, nor the Jazz, or Brooklyn. They go to great lengths to keep internal affairs exactly that. So the question shouldn’t be, “is Doncic leaving?” Instead, it needs to be, who within the Mavericks organization had something to gain from this?
This is a big offseason for Dallas. It will require everyone in the front office to be on the same page, as the Mavs aim to vault into the NBA’s elite. It’s clear that the clock is ticking for Dallas to build a contender around Doncic, but the timer hasn’t wound down just yet.
In fact, he isn’t close to leaving when looking at the complete picture. If he was, he wouldn’t give up the leverage he held heading into this offseason by insinuating that he would sign the supermax extension. And if Voulgaris is the reason Doncic wants to leave Dallas, Cuban would let him go before things reach that point.
In the executive versus generation-defining player debate, the generation-defining player should win out every time. And for the smart organizations worth their weight in the NBA, the player tends to.
The saying goes, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” but that saying doesn’t define whether it’s a controlled campfire or distant forest fire. Just because there is smoke, it does not mean the fire is out of control. The same can be said for this report.
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Feature image via Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports.