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Tobias Harris reacts to Mark Cuban’s comments about American basketball players

Tobias Harris, Mark Cuban, Luka Doncic, Dirk Nowitzki

LOS ANGELES – Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made headline over the last several days following his team’s matchup with the L.A. Clippers.

Heading into Thursday night’s game between the Mavs and Clippers for the first time at Staples Center, all eyes were on center DeAndre Jordan making his return to Los Angeles, where he played the first 10 seasons of his career. By the end of the night (and for the next several days), the attention turned to comments made by Mavs owner Mark Cuban to George Efkarpides of Eurohoops before the game, appearing to criticize the basketball education of American players while praising the basketball education of European players.

“It is important because you’re used to people being older than you but I think he just learned how to play basketball and that’s the biggest gift. When you’re gifted as he is and you actually learn to play the game. If you look at the basketball education of kids starting at 11-years old in Europe and particularly Slovenia which is basketball oriented.

“If we took our best kids and seven years before they are McDonald’s all-American, we sent them over to Slovenia to get an education, the league would be a thousand times better. They just learn how to play basketball while our guys learn how to dunk and put together mixtapes.”

It felt like Cuban, who has had home runs landing European players, was simply trying to say that young players in Europe were getting better developmental education while players being groomed in the United States weren’t.

Over the last several days, a few players have spoken out about Cuban’s comments, which were taken as a jab at American basketball players, including his own starting forward Harrison Barnes. The seventh year forward from the University of North Carolina released a statement via Marc Spears of ESPN.

As a statement, I don’t agree with it. As a joke I don’t find it funny. And frankly I think it doesn’t reflect what makes the NBA special.

The great thing about our league is that players come from all over the world. We are raised in every background imaginable and bring unique perspectives because of it. We should celebrate that. We bring those perspectives on each other, on issues in our communities and we aren’t afraid to learn from and share those perspectives. That’s our strength.

Following the Clippers 132-111 victory over the visiting Denver Nuggets on Saturday afternoon, Tobias Harris spoke exclusively with ClutchPoints about Cuban’s comments, saying that he’s looking at all sides to try and understand what’s being said.

“I look at all sides with that,” explained Harris. “Obviously over there, they’ve got a lot of overseas type players. They have good fundamentals of the game. He has a young player (Luka Doncic) from overseas. They have Dirk Nowitzki, who was a legend for the Mavs, so I can see why his views are that type of way, but there’s a lot of young players that have come into the league and been productive and had good games. The NBA is mainly made up of players from the U.S. I mean, don’t get it twisted, talent is here regardless. But I can understand why he might have those types of approaches.”

Doncic’s first professional action came after he agreed to a five-year contract with Real Madrid, when he was just 13 years of age. He played professionally and was slowly groomed into the star he is today, which is why he’s the clear-cut leader for the Rookie of the Year award.

While the true nature of Cuban’s comments aren’t completely understood, some have debated whether or not they had a racist undertone to them. Harris would like to think that Cuban’s comments stemmed from his appreciation for the European game that brought him the legendary Nowitzki and the future star in Doncic.

“I heard that too,” responded Harris when I told him I was seeing people attach a bit of racism to it on social media. “As I said before, I think if you look at the base of where the comments came from, it’s more on his rookie, who is a great player in the league. And just to be fairly honest, those guys probably play more basketball than a lot of kids here. He was a professional at what, 13? 14? So he’s already into the system of development stage and I think that’s where the majority, I would hope, that’s where his comments are coming from. I don’t know, I’m not Mark Cuban. I don’t know what he was thinking at the moment, but that would be my understanding. That would be what I would like to believe.”

Cuban has gone out and publicly addressed the comments to clear up any confusion over the last few days, but that hasn’t seemed to help the perception of what he said.

It’ll be interesting to see if anything else develops from this over the next several days. Clearly, however, Cuban has irked a number of American NBA players.