Rockets general manager Daryl Morey responded to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's latest swipes against him, saying in a published interview that if the money is equal, free agents will always pick Houston over Dallas.
The Mavericks signed away Chandler Parsons from the Rockets this offseason when Houston chose not to match the offer sheet. Cuban said in an interview with KRLD-FM in August that snagging Parsons was satisfying after Dwight Howard chose to sign with Houston instead of Dallas in 2013, adding,"all good business is personal."
Cuban questioned the Rockets' approach to chemistry in that interview when answering a question about Morey's inquiries with Dallas to see whetherDirk Nowitzki was available via trade in 2013. He also took a dig at Houston for putting images of Carmelo Anthony in a No. 7 jersey in the windows near one of the entrances to the Toyota Center when the then-free agent visited this past summer even though Jeremy Lin was still on the team at that time.
In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Morey said Cuban is directing his fire at the Rockets because the Mavericks' other in-state rival, the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, aren't an easy target. "So he's directed his bully pulpit onto us," Morey said. "Our owner stays above the fray, so I'm outgunned honestly."
But Morey told Yahoo! that the Rockets are a more attractive landing spot than Dallas.
"But let's be clear: If the money's equal between the Rockets and Mavericks, I think players are picking Houston. Every time," he told the website. "For Dwight, I just don't think it was a hard choice between us and Dallas. If you want to win, you're going to want to join our organization. We have a first-team All-NBA player in his prime [James Harden]. They have an enormously talented superstar [Nowitzki, 36], but he obviously isn't 24 years old.
"The choice was pretty obvious between the two teams. Dwight is the smart guy in this."
The Rockets' general manager dismissed Cuban's comments about Houston ignoring team chemistry, pointing out that the Mavericks' owner doesn't have a great track record in that department.
"Our teams have had great chemistry, and it's something we believe in. Hey, if Mark believed so much in chemistry, he wouldn't have busted up a title team for cap room. He's trying to reunite a lot of those people now, bringing back the center [Tyson Chandler] from that title team. Maybe he's got some chemistry religion recently," he told Yahoo!
At Mavs media day Monday, Cuban took particular aim at Morey's "chemistry" comment, noting that the league's new collective bargaining agreement was the primary factor in his decision to break up the Mavs' title team. Cuban joked that he can't help being a bully and admitted he enjoys public exchanges with rivals, as he used to do with former Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
"The only reason I'm even responding is because I respect and like Daryl, who's smart," Cuban said. "He's got some Donald Trump in him where he doesn't really understand media all that well, but he's a smart guy and one of the smartest general managers in the league. So we can have some fun going back and forth."
Cuban, who has occasionally referenced the fact that the Rockets have won only one playoff series since 1997, laughed off Morey's claim that players would choose Houston over Dallas if they wanted to win.
"I'm not sure how he would know that," Cuban said. Cuban said Morey "kind of got it started" with the trade inquiry about Nowitzki in the summer of 2013 and again with his comments about developing players when Parsons signed with Dallas.
"If you throw the punches -- I just don't think he realized he threw them, so I had some fun responding," Cuban said. "There's no personal animosity whatsoever, but we're competitive. Like I said, he's smart and it's fun to pick on him."