Posts Tagged ‘Don Nelson’

End Of Era: Only Beards Grow In Dallas

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HANG TIME, Texas — Pity poor Jessica Nowitzki, who is not a fan of the Mavericks drive-for-.500 beards.

“It’s not a good look,” husband Dirk admitted the other day. “My wife doesn’t like it that much. But I guess we’ve all got to suck it up and reach our goal.”

It might be time to wonder how tolerant Mrs. Nowitzki will be by October, when the Mavs have a more realistic shot to reach the break-even mark after their spectacular 136-103 flameout in Houston? By that time Dirk and his teammates could look like so many Rip Van Winkles or extras from the cast of “Lincoln”.

The Mavs hardly resemble a team that is sharpening its razors or its playoff claws as a lost season staggers toward the finish. They couldn’t defend, get enough shots for their biggest gun or do much of anything right against the Rockets.

“At the clip, we’re losing and losing (close) games at home, and those are the games you have to win if you want to be in the playoffs,” Nowitzki said. “We haven’t shown consistently that we can big games. We have to fight and we have another game on Wednesday and we’ll see what we got.”

What they’ve got is a season that jumped off track when Dirk missed the first 27 games following knee surgery and has never developed a sense of rhythm or direction. Now a team that has not won more than three consecutive games all season would have to go 15-8 over the final six weeks just to get to the .500 mark and it’s unlikely that 41-41 would be good enough to make the playoffs anyway.

It’s the end of an era. Assuming there is no postseason basketball in Dallas this spring, it will bring an end to the best stretch of basketball in franchise history, ending a playoff streak that stretches back to 2001, the first full season under Mark Cuban’s ownership.

The Mavs string of 12 consecutive playoff appearances is tied for the 13th-longest in league history and is the second-best active streak in the NBA, trailing only San Antonio’s 15 and counting.

The highlight, of course, was the 2011 championship, but more than a decade of always reaching the playoffs is a worthy feat that marks consistency and constant striving by what has become a model franchise.

How long has it been? Consider that the first year of the playoff streak, coached by Don Nelson (53-39), had a roster that included Shawn Bradley, Christian Laettner, Juwan Howard, Vernon Maxwell, Wang Zhizhi a rookie named Eduardo Najera and a 27-year-old Steve Nash, along with Nowitzki who was in his second NBA season.

Now only Dirk remains as the Mavs close in on coming full circle to his non-playoff rookie season.

“If you want to be in the playoffs we haven’t showed consistently we can win big games,” Nowitzki said. “It was a nice win in Brooklyn [on Friday], and we can’t follow it up.

“Not consistent enough even over one game. A decent half, a decent three quarters here and there, and one garbage quarter. It’s never consistent enough to really be a playoff threat.”

It was a long road and long climb by the Mavs to get to the top of the mountain, but the only thing getting longer these days is those beards.

Najera Busts Barriers From Bench Now

FRISCO, Texas — During the first round of the 2010 playoffs, in his second stint with the Dallas Mavericks — the team and the city he always called home no matter where roamed in the NBA — Eduardo Najera decided to shake things up.

The Spurs were doing a number on the Mavs in Dallas and the muscular, 6-foot-8, 240-pound power forward had seen enough of the slap-and-hack defense on Dirk Nowitzki. So when Manu Ginobili drove the lane, Najera collared him and Ginobili crashed to the floor. The foul deserved to be and was called a flagrant 2, garnering an automatic ejection. But Najera had grabbed everyone’s attention.

“It was kind of frustrating to watch some of them hit Dirk in the face,” Najera would say. “So I just came in and tried to prove a point that we’re going to fight back. And that’s what’s going to happen.”

As a player, Najera, still the only Mexican-born player ever drafted in the NBA, never had to search for an identity. He simply was physical, intense, hard-nosed and unrelenting. Don’t mistake the Ginobili foul; Najera wasn’t a dirty player, but he wasn’t afraid to take the fight to the opponent.

These days those attributes don’t translate so well wearing a suit. As a rookie coach of the NBA D-League’s Texas Legends, developing an identity, a sideline demeanor, just doesn’t come as naturally.

“I am pretty intense,” Najera said. “I really believe that my identity as a player has carried on to this level as a coach. Yes, I call it the way I see it. I don’t treat players differently, they are all the same to me and I go off on one through 15, and that includes my assistant coaches.” (more…)

Mavs’ 3-Point Streak Ends at 1,108 Games

 

HANGTIME SOUTHWEST — Robert Pack, Travis Best, Antoine Walker, Antoine Wright, Dan Dickau, Erick Dampier, Danny Manning.

Just a few of the names that contributed along the way to the Dallas Mavericks’ remarkable (but once not unrivaled) 3-point shooting streak. For 1,108 consecutive games entering Friday night’s chilly visit to Toronto, at least one Mavericks player has made at least one 3-point shot.

Back when gas cost a buck-seventeen, before George W. Bush became president, as Y2K threatened every last computer, even pre-dating Mark Cuban‘s first NBA fine, Michael Finley and Erick Strickland combined to make three 3-pointers in a 97-90 win over the Sacramento Kings at the now-demolished Reunion Arena.

The date was Feb. 27, 1999.

Keith Van Horn, Cedric Ceballos, Shawn Bradley, Trenton Hassell, Adam Harrington, Danny Manning, Rawle Marshall.

On Feb. 26, 1999, the season was just 13 games old because of the lockout. Dirk Nowitzki was a rookie. Don Nelson was in his second year as head coach. The Mavs were 4-9, but had won two in a row when they got to Salt Lake City. In the middle game of a back-to-back-to-back, the Mavs missed all eight 3-point attempts and lost to the Jazz 80-65.

Incredibly, it would still stand as the last game that the Mavs didn’t make at least one 3-pointer as they arrived Friday at Air Canada Centre.

Drew Gooden, Juwan Howard, Antoine Rigaudeau, Steve Novak, Matt Carroll, Jerry Stackhouse, Vernon Maxwell.

On this night, the Mavs would not have available the franchise’s top three active 3-point shooters. Nowitzki, the all-time leader, remains shelved after October knee surgery. Jason Terry, second, plays for the Boston Celtics. Jason Kidd, fourth, plays for the New York Knicks. Third on the list is Finley. He works in the Mavs’ front office.

As play entered the fourth quarter, the Raptors held a 69-55 lead. One reason was Dallas had yet to make a 3-pointer, missing all 12 attempts. Toronto had made seven of its 24, hardly a flattering percentage, yet a 21-point differential nonetheless.

Early in the fourth quarter, Derek Fisher looked to have extended the streak to 1,109. But after a replay review, Fisher’s foot was determined to be stepping on the arc. Two points.

Dallas would attempt one more and miss it: 0-for-13.

Brandon Bass, Steve Nash, J.J. Barea, James Singleton, Kelenna Azubuike, Alexis Ajinca, Lamar Odom.

Fifteen times during the streak, the Mavs skated by with a lone 3-pointer. Arguably the most famous streak-saver came on April 19, 2006, the final game of the season. With a playoff seed wrapped up, coach Avery Johnson sat out some starters, including Nowitzki getting his first rest of the season, and he greatly limited others.

With Dallas trailing 84-68 to the Seattle SuperSonics, Johnson drew up a play to get DeSagana Diop his first career 3-pointer with less than a minute to go in the 7-foot center’s fifth season.

By gosh, he hit it.

“You think I would’ve shot it if he [Johnson] didn’t draw it up?” Diop would say, smiling.

The streak lived on, 610 games strong, into another offseason.

Wang Zhizhi, Eduardo Najera, Josh Howard, Marquis Daniels, Antawn Jamison, Christian Laettner, Hubert Davis.

The second-longest consecutive 3-point streak in NBA history belongs, coincidentally, to the Raptors at 986 games.

And now for the truly bizarre part. Remember the date Feb. 26, 1999? The night the Mavs went 0-for-8 from behind the arc in Utah — the last game they would not make at least one 3-pointer for the next 13 years — the Raptors’ Vince Carter, Doug Christie and Dee Brown combined to make four 3-pointers in a 102-92 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Who knows how minuscule the odds, but one night before the Mavs embarked on their record streak, the Raptors had started their own, one that would span 986 games until Jan. 24, 2011.

On Dec. 14, 2012, the Raptors finally stopped Dallas’ at a potentially untouchable 1,108.

Majerus’ Hoops Impact, Friendships Transcended NBA, NCAA Lines

CHICAGORick Majerus‘ formal connections to the NBA were modest. He spent one season as an assistant coach on Don Nelson’s staff with the Milwaukee Bucks (1986-87), and for a number of years was a TV analyst of the college prospects on NBA Draft coverage.

But basketball is basketball. Xs & Os are the 1s & 0s of the game’s binary code, a universal language across its many levels.

The man who died Saturday at age 64 after years of battling heart disease – for all his NCAA success at Marquette, Ball State, Utah and most recently Saint Louis – had friends, mentors and devotees who reached basketball heights (The Finals, the Olympics, the Naismith Hall of Fame). And he had fans and now mourners who never left the gyms and playgrounds of Salt Lake City or Milwaukee, where Majerus was most comfortable, after all.

Tom Thibodeau, coach of the Chicago Bulls, had known of Majerus through Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers -– it was Majerus, remember, who christened the kid formerly known as Glenn with that nickname (Rivers wore a Julius “Dr. J” Erving T-shirt to a summer basketball camp where Majerus was working). But after Thibodeau got hired by the Bulls in 2010, a friendship developed between the two basketball lifers.

That first year, Thibodeau met Majerus in Milwaukee for a long dinner about basketball and life – the stout and curious Majerus rarely had any other kind. Then in the summer of 2011, the two got together – with mutual hoops junkies Scott Layden (now Spurs assistant GM) and Jay Larranaga (Celtics assistant), and Majerus’ girlfriend – for a week in Santa Barbara, Calif.

More coaching chatter. More lavish meals, no matter how low-rent the joint. More philosophizing. Genuine and not one of those sideline strutters from central casting.

“We’d talk basketball during the day,” Thibodeau said late Saturday, after the Bulls’ victory over Philadelphia at United Center. “Went out to dinner at night. Went for rides and stuff. He could talk about so many different things.

“The guy was just mesmerizing. He could talk about any aspect of the game. I have piles of notes about his basketball philosophy. He’s probably one of the top five basketball coaches at any level.”

Like many who knew Majerus, Thibodeau thought of him as a combination of the Marquette coaches who gave Majerus his start, part gamesman like Al McGuire, part details guy like assistant Hank Raymonds. But Thibodeau also saw, so many years later, the influence of Nelson, the Bucks’ “mad scientist” coach, from their season together and subsequent friendship.

“Nellie is very innovative, and it opened up the way Rick looked at things,” Thibodeau said. “He was one of those guys, I think he could have been a great coach in any sport. He understood things like team building.”

Majerus had attended the Bulls’ home game against Denver last spring at United Center – Nuggets coach George Karl was another of his great NBA friends. Thibodeau spoke with him in June, when Majerus’ exit from Saint Louis was still a health sabbatical, not yet the forced retirement that was announced last month. They missed each other in L.A., unknowingly staying in the same hotel when Thibodeau went out to meet with free agent Omer Asik.

“It’s so sad. I feel terrible,” Thibodeau said. “He lived life to the fullest, that’s for sure.

“The job he did at Utah – unbelievable, taking that team to the championship game against Kentucky. Think about that. Last year he had such a great year, too [with the Billikens] and he had that team coming back.

“He was one of those guys who got absolutely the most out of his teams. Whatever ‘the most’ could be, he did it year after year after year. To me, that’s the mark of greatness, to be able to do it over a long period of time. And he did it so many different places.”

Here are other reactions from Saturday night, from Majerus’ NBA connections:

Rivers: “That’s a tough one for me. He’s the one that gave me my name. … I knew before the game that he wasn’t going to make it through the night. I don’t want to talk much about it.”

Bucks assistant Jim Boylan, the point guard on Marquette’s 1977 NCAA title team: “For me personally he’s always been there. He’s one of those guys where, you don’t see Rick for a while and then when something is going wrong or you needed some help, boom, he’d be there. He did so much for me over the years when I was trying to get my career going, just extending himself and giving you whatever you needed, whether it was a phone call or having me come out to Salt Lake and stay with him 4-5 weeks at a time working. He would basically give you the shirt off his back if that’s what you needed – whatever it took. He’s going to be really missed. A great person.”

Milwaukee scout Bo Ellis, top player on that Warriors squad: “When I came to Marquette, Rick was still very young. He was just getting started too. But always prepared. Great basketball mind. I remember, he stole all of [Al McGuire’s] jokes. A good person and a fantastic basketball man.”

Rounding Up Usual (And Unusual) Suspects For Lakers Job

Considering how much of what the Los Angeles Lakers do is driven by entertainment, more than any of the other NBA teams, there’s a must-see moment waiting to happen as the team scouts for a replacement for Mike Brown, fired Friday as head coach after a disappointing 1-4 start.

The Buss family that owns the team ought to bring in Stan Van Gundy for an interview, then set up hidden cameras for the moment when it leaks to the players.

The list of “Who’s” was instantaneous Friday, compiled in pieces or in full on the Internet almost as swiftly as word of Brown’s firing spread. Here is a quickie list of candidates with HTB assessments of their pros and cons:
(more…)

Jordan, Magic Among 2012 Hall of Fame Presenters

HANG TIME WEST – The Hall of Fame on Tuesday announced a star-studded group of presenters for the induction ceremony next Friday night in Springfield, Mass., a list headed by Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson that is powerful enough to overshadow most of the actual inductees.

Their role is strictly ceremonial, nothing more than standing on stage as the enshrinees speak. And some choices are assigned for a person or team without a personal connection to a current Hall of Famer, as the rules require. But some in the past have been interesting selections – Jordan requesting David Thompson despite not having any relationship, Karl Malone choosing Willis Reed against the same backdrop, both in nods to home-state heroes – and the presenters this time are noteworthy for the number of all-time greats.

The complete list of enshinees and their presenters:

All America Redheads — Teresa Edwards.

Lidia Alexeeva – Will not be present.

The late Don BarksdaleBob Cousy.

Mel DanielsWayne Embry and Artis Gilmore.

Phil Knight – Jordan and John Thompson.

Katrina McClain – Edwards, Julius Erving, and C. Vivian Stringer.

Hank NicholsHubie Brown.

Don NelsonChris Mullin, Bob Lanier and Satch Sanders.

Reggie MillerCheryl Miller, Charles Barkley and Johnson.

Ralph SampsonKareem Abdul-Jabbar, Erving, and Barkley.

Chet WalkerBilly Cunningham, Earl Monroe, Adrian Dantley and Isiah Thomas.

Jamaal Wilkes – Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, Rick Barry and Bill Walton.

In all, officials are expecting approximately 50 Hall of Famers to attend, either as participants or to watch and join in private functions.

All-time Coaching Winner Don Nelson Says He Is Permanently Retired

 

HANG TIME WEST – He is 72 and living the good life on heaven-on-Earth Maui, so there has naturally been the question of why Don Nelson would want to give that up to get back into the coaching grind. Now comes the updated answer: he doesn’t.

The winningest coach in NBA history is permanently retired. He will not pursue future openings and will politely decline any overtures that do arrive.

That’s the word from Nellie himself, and the development is significant even if there appears to be little chance any team would register interest. Just last summer, after all, the Timberwolves considered Nelson for a job he very much wanted, before Minnesota hired Rick Adelman.

“No, I don’t,” Nelson said when asked if he wants to coach again. “There is life after basketball, which I didn’t know about when I was 70, but now I know that I’m 72. I’m having a great time on Maui. I’m doing a lot of development on my properties here and staying real busy. I actually get to play golf once in a while. I’m having the time of my life in my 70s.”

What changed in one year?

“I got a little eager,” he said. “You start thinking, ‘I’m getting older and it may be my last opportunity to get a job.’ All those things are going through my mind (when the Timberwolves showed interet). And I loved the team. I didn’t go after every job, but I went after the one job where I really thought I could do a good job. And when that didn’t happen, I pretty well dismissed ever coaching again. Then I had an opportunity to go to work for a friend of mine in Dallas. We’re starting a company in Detroit, Michigan, where we’re going to make made-in-USA items. We’re going to make watches, make bicycles, leather goods. A company we put together called Shinola.”

Nelson, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sept. 7, last coached in 2009-10, when he passed Lenny Wilkens for No. 1 on the career coaching win list as part of a 26-56 campaign. A few months later, just before the start of training camp and the final season on his Warriors contract, Nelson was fired as part of a series of changes by a new ownership group.

“I think it was a good time for me to step away from it,” he said recently. “I really did enjoy my last year. We didn’t have a good team, but those guys, they gave me everything they had every single game. We had a bunch of non-drafted players. They gave me such a great year. We got the record. The guys wanted that so bad for me. It was just such a fun year I had my last year there. Then, when new ownership came in and I got to be 70 years old, I thought maybe it was just a perfect time to step away. I think it was. I really do.”

Can Karl’s Nuggets Run To Glory?

HANG TIME, Texas — Break out the oxygen tanks for the thin air in Denver. Start ironing the extra rubber onto the soles of those sneakers.

George Karl wants the Nuggets to run. And run and run and run.

Does anybody have leftover programs and posters from when the nutty professor Paul Westhead tried that route in Denver back in 1990? Do you remember his Nuggets averaging a league-high 119.9 points per game? Oh, and giving up 130.8? How about the night they surrendered 107 points in one half to Phoenix, which is still an NBA record?

Talking to Scott Hastings on KKFN in Denver, an unabashed Karl says his plan for getting his Nuggets out of a three-year funk of being bounced from the playoffs in the first round is to pick up baton from where Mike D’Antoni left off with his “Seven seconds or less” offense in Phoenix.

“I’ve never seen it be that successful in the NBA, but I think the big thing for us is, who is going to commit to playing fast? We talked about it and last year we did a good job at it, but there’s no way I want to slow down. I want to try to prove the world wrong — that you can run and win in the NBA, and you can win big if you keep running. The problem is, can you run for 82 games every minute, every possession of every game?”

While putting the pedal to the metal can certainly inject a level of excitement and enthusiasm to an arena, Dan Devine of Ball Don’t Lie reminds with the cold hard stats that it has never been a path that has led to a championship. (more…)

Call It A Comeback For Sloan?





HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS — If Dwight Howard thought Stan Van Gundy was tough to deal with, can you imagine how he’d react to Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan?

The former and longtime coach of the Utah Jazz is apparently contemplating a coaching comeback at 70, with feelers from both the Charlotte Bobcats and potentially the Magic, who fired Van Gundy Monday and are currently searching for his replacement.

Sloan has already spoken with the Bobcats about their opening and is “intrigued” by the possibilities in Orlando, per the Salt Lake Tribune:

Asked about his reported interest in Orlando, Sloan said, “I’m sure a lot of people are interested. But I really don’t know what the parameters are going to be or what’s going on. I guess we’ll wait and see what happens.”

(more…)

Hall of Fame Announces Class of 2012





Former Pacers scoring star Reggie Miller and Don Nelson, the winningest coach in league history, headline the Hall of Fame Class of 2012 announced Monday in New Orleans in the basketball museum’s latest attempt to address previous oversights.

While Miller’s selection was not a surprise, he did go from not being a finalist in 2011 all the way to election this time. Nelson went from finalist to missing the cut in ’11.

Jamaal Wilkes made it to Springfield, Mass., some 26 years after he retired. Ralph Sampson, elected largely on the strength of a dominating college career at Virginia, last played in 1992.

Hank Nichols, a long-time college and international referee, also made it via the North American Committee.

Maurice Cheeks, Bill Fitch, Bernard King, Dick Motta and Rick Pitino fell short of the required 18 votes from a secret panel of 24 voters comprised of members of the media, NBA and college game.

Katrina McClain, a former star at Georgia and two-time Olympic gold medalist, and the All American Red Heads, a barnstorming team from 1936 to 1986, were elected by the Women’s Committee.

Mel Daniels (ABA), Don Barksdale (Early African American Pioneers), Lidia Alexeeva (International), Chet Walker (Veterans) and Phil Knight (Contributor) were announced in February as inductees.

Enshrinement ceremonies are Sept. 7 in Springfield.