It pains Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban that he no longer has a sparring partner.
So in addition to Dallas needing to win against the Lakers in hopes of sliding into the playoffs, Cuban had particular interest in this game for other reasons.
The Lakers will honor Shaquille O’Neal’s No. 34 jersey at halftime featuring former Lakers coach Phil Jackson as one of the speakers.
Will Cuban trash talk with his former playful adversaries?
“I might say something to Phil,” Cuban said. “I have great respect for Phil too.”
He then couldn’t resist taking a dig at Jackson, who recently became engaged with his longtime companion, Jeanie Buss, the Lakers’ vice president of business operations.
“He’s Jeanie’s husband, as he’ll from now on be known, since Jeanie’s still in the league,” Cuban said. “Someone’s gotta be the first Housewife of the Lakers. I’m glad it’s Phil.”
Buss has often believed Cuban makes such comments just to make her laugh at NBA meetings. Guilty as charged.
“Oh yeah. Jeanie and I are friends,” Cuban said. “I love Jeanie. I would see them outside and they would crack up about stuff. They were big movie buffs. We’d talk about that.”
That’s why Cuban had an empty feeling ever since Jackson’s retirement after the Mavericks swept the Lakers in the 2011 Western Conference semifinals.
“Phil is great. When he retired after the Mavs beat them that series, I walked up to him and said look, ‘You’re great for the NBA. Please don’t retire,” Cuban said. “Like Shaq, they’re both part of what makes the NBA unique. There’s not a lot of personalities that really define themselves not just by their accomplishments on the court but by their wit and intelligence off the court. That’s good for any entertainment business.”
As for Shaq, Cuban often took digs at his free throw shooting and his ongoing feud with Kobe Bryant. The Mavericks also put together a video called “Shaq Albert,” a spinoff of the cartoon, “Fat Albert.”
“He was a nice foil,” Cuban said. “He would come at me and I think when he realized I wouldn’t back down from him, that I’d come right back at him, then it got fun for both of us. And we’ve stayed friends. We’re good friends now.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org