Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, recently shared a behind-the-scenes story from the 2010-11 NBA season during his appearance on the Pat Bev Pod.
This revelation highlights a strategic move that played a pivotal role in the Mavericks’ journey to the NBA Finals and their eventual triumph over LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
Cuban’s idea was simple yet ingenious: employ a zone defense for extended periods during games. This concept was born during a preseason matchup against the Chicago Bulls.
Cuban approached Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle with the proposal to utilize a zone defense consistently throughout games. At the time, opponents rarely practiced against this defensive scheme, making it a potential game-changer.
“The year we won way back when, I remember it was a preseason against Chicago and I’m like, ‘Rick [Carlisle], can we just play zone the whole game?’ The thing about back then, nobody practiced against the zone. And so if you ran a zone, it always caught them off guard. And you can always get back in a game, expand the lead,” Cuban remembered. “He was like, ‘That’s a good idea. Let’s try it.’ So we ran it. And over the course of that season, we had a great season.”
Carlisle embraced the idea, recognizing its disruptive potential. As the season progressed, the Mavericks refined their zone defense, and it became a potent weapon in their arsenal. When they faced James and the Heat in the Finals, they deployed the zone effectively to slow down the formidable opponent.
“Get to the Finals against Miami, throw a zone against Bron,” Cuban continued. “All you had to do is get him to hesitate because Bron’s always going to make the right play. He always wants to make the right basketball play. And when you’re facing a zone and you have to read what they’re doing, is it matchup, whatever it may be that slowed him down. That gave us an edge.”