Posts Tagged ‘Texas Legends’

A disciple of Wooden, Del Harris wins award in legendary coach’s name

Del Harris

Del Harris spent 14 seasons as a head coach in the NBA.

 

DALLAS – Former NBA coach Del Harris grew up in Indiana idolizing fellow Hoosier Stater John Wooden. During Final Four weekend next month in North Texas, Harris will receive the Coach Wooden “Keys to Life” award at the Legends of Hardwood breakfast.

Harris, 76, coached for more than 50 years, starting at junior high, high school and college before guiding the Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. He spent many more years as a top assistant, including in Dallas under Don Nelson. Harris, who lives in Dallas, remains tied to the game as the vice president of the Mavericks’ D-League affiliate Texas Legends in suburban Dallas. Harris is also a part-time studio analyst on New Orleans Pelicans broadcasts.

The “Keys to Life” honor is akin to a lifetime achievement award. That it is in the name of the legendary Wooden means the world to Harris, who as an ordained minister started out in life as a preacher, “and I still do that most of the time,” Harris said Friday prior to the Mavs taking on the Pacers, “but it became obvious early on that what I was called to do was coach basketball, primarily.”

The significance of coach Wooden’s influence on Harris’ life and his career is best told by Harris, a walking, talking basketball encyclopedia in his own right:

“When I was growing up in Indiana, I grew up 30 miles or so from Martinsville, where he played. When I was quite young and starting to play, the NBA hadn’t started yet. So our heroes in those days in Indiana were the high school players and the college players that had established themselves. Guys like coach Wooden, he was the No. 1 as a player winning the championships in high school and then being at Purdue, the best player at that time, in our little world. Those were our heroes.

“Then in the ’50s in high school, the NBA by then had started up. There were eight teams playing, nothing on TV or anything like that. John Wooden was a guy that was the epitome of basketball for me and for a lot of others when we were kids. And so when I started coaching, he was on top, obviously, and I went wherever I could to listen to his clinics. I went to New York one time just to hear him. I patterned as much as I could from his work and what I learned from him and also from Dean Smith, just a little bit later on he came into our place in 1966-67 and spent a few days in my home. Those two guys were the foundation for what I tried to do. Now, I was a poor representation of John Wooden I’m sure, but later on when I was in L.A., I was able to spend time with him, I sat in on UCLA practices and watched the team practice, I took him to lunch, I sat in his apartment for an entire afternoon and talked about basketball and life.

“My dad, when he died, I was going through his things and he always — he called coach Wooden, coach Wooten, but he also thought Iowa was Ioway, too, so — but anyway he thought he [Wooden] was the best ever and so forth. When going through his things, he had a picture, I don’t know where he got it, of the Wooden family — he had a Wooden family photo among his things. And so I know that, he’s been gone now since 1998 and it was a life-changing event for me when he died, I know that of all the things that might have come my way, this would be the most important thing that my dad would have appreciated.”

Congratulations to Del Harris.

Also to be honored during the Final Four is another Dallas resident and basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman. She has been named the Naismith Outstanding Contributor to Women’s College Basketball.

Lieberman became the first women to coach a professional men’s team when she guided the D-League Legends for one season. She currently joins Harris in the franchise’s front office and is a full-time studio analyst on Oklahoma City Thunder broadcasts.

Only Delonte West Can Change His Course

Texas Legends vs. Canton Charge

Delonte West, who last played for the Texas Legends in the D-League, believes he could be a key piece to a championship team that’s ‘one guard away’. (David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Will Delonte West ever play in the NBA again?

It’s a real question and a sad one because West, who turns 30 on Saturday, has all the talent to be a solid rotation player for any team. He’s a willing, snarling defender and a heady offensive threat. His 2011-12 Dallas Mavericks teammates instantly fell in love with him and coach Rick Carlisle backed him at every turn. A gruesome broken finger that required surgery wiped out a chunk of the season and likely prevented him from signing that multiyear deal he so badly desired for a little security after several seasons of playing on one-year, minimum contracts.

And then West went haywire during training camp last year, his insecurity sabotaging a second season with Dallas and now potentially a career that is stalled at eight seasons. West didn’t like the backcourt logjam in Dallas and felt threatened. He acted out. Suspended once for conduct detrimental to the team, a second suspension before the season even started earned him a one-way ticket off a team run by Mark Cuban, one of, if not the most forgiving, player-centric owners in the game.

The Mavs gave up on a player they really needed, but West needs basketball even more and he might never get it back. He is easily the least-talked-about free agent still on the market.

I had been trying for some time to reach West, who has refused to answer phone calls or respond to text messages. Last week, Slam Magazine‘s Tzvi Twerski did roust West from his long media silence. West continues to live in Dallas. He recently got married and the couple is expecting a baby very soon.

In the article, West comes across as self-loathing — not wanting to name the baby Delonte Jr., as family members have suggested, to prevent future harassment in school from his father’s past misdeeds — and he continues to point to his heavily chronicled 2009 arrest while playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers as an unfortunate incident that teams refuse to let him escape.

“Before that, coaches and GMs, they said I was a tough, scrappy player,” West told Twerski. “They wanted to go to war with me on their side. Everything after that incident became, ‘did he take his medicine?’ Oh, ‘he’s bipolar.'”

In a sports world prevalent with DWI’s and other mischief, West said the media is also guilty of keeping him trapped under their thumb some four years after the arrest.

“Reporters can’t write a sentence — they can’t write a sentence about even a good game — without mentioning something from four years ago,” West said. “There are plenty of players arrested for DUIs, gun charges, this and that. [Meanwhile], they’ve made me into the Terminator.”

West, who has Bipolar Disorder, who is known for off-the-cuff, often unsavory rants on Twitter, who has financially supported a long list of extended family members for years and who secretly slept in the Mavs’ locker room when he signed in December 2011 because he said he was broke, must take control of his career, end the self-loathing and make smart decisions when opportunities arise.

Toward the end of last season when it was still possible for him to join a team for the stretch run and the playoffs, West signed a contract to play for the Mavs’ D-League affiliate. West hoped it would lead to a reunion with the Mavs, but when Cuban made it known that it would not, West opted not to report to the Texas Legends.

Other clubs wanted to see West back in uniform, but in the D-League first, to gauge his mood and behavior more than the state of his mid-range jumper, to determine the best they could if he was worth the risk of adding to their locker room.

As the Legends waited for him to show up, West was apparently firing his agent. However, differing stories surfaced with his representatives claiming that they were walking away from West because he refused to heed their advice — such as quickly joining the Legends to showcase himself for other NBA teams — and also withheld payment.

When West finally arrived to play for the Legends, it was a moot point. He played eight uninspired games and that was that.

“I had tears in my eyes watching games this past year — not because I’m bipolar, but because I’m sitting at home and miss the game,” West told Twersky. “When my agent calls, I’m going to be on the next flight. Not to be cocky, but some teams that are trying to win are one guard away, one guy that can make a couple great plays away from going to the Finals.

“Well, I’m right here. Y’all know it and I know it.”

Every executive in the NBA knows West can play the game. They just don’t know if they’ll get a stable and productive combo guard for the duration of the season. That’s the real and sad truth.

D-League Diary: Justin Dentmon’s Long Wait

FRISCO, Texas — Sometimes Justin Dentmon wants to strangle his cell phone. But like the rest of us, he can’t live without it. It’s just that so few of us experience the stomach-wrenching anxiety he does with each ring of an incoming call or beep of a text.

“I feel like I’m on call every day, I’m waiting every day,” Dentmon said. “Every time Bill [Neff, his agent] calls and leaves a message, I’m thinking that it’s somebody calling for a contract. I’m really just trying to be patient.”

But time is running short, on the the NBA season, on that elusive call-up and ultimately on the 6-foot point guard’s NBA dream.

“I’m just hoping for that call-up, man,” Dentmon said. “Just the chance, the opportunity.”

Dentmon, 27, plays for the Texas Legends. It is his second stint with the Dallas Mavericks’ D-League affiliate in the last three years, and he leads the league in scoring at 21.5 ppg. He’s averaging 25.9 ppg in 15 games with the Legends since being traded mid-season from the Austin Toros, the San Antonio Spurs’ affiliate he won the league MVP with and led to the D-League title a year ago.

That season, while averaging 22.8 ppg and 5.5 apg while shooting lights out from beyond the arc, it took until March 24 for Dentmon to get the call for his first 10-day contract with the Spurs. A few days after San Antonio released him, the Toronto Raptors quickly scooped him up with another 10-day contract. But they decided to hold onto Ben Uzoh, a D-League staple this season with the Springfield Armor.

But Dentmon felt like he had finally got himself on the map and closer than ever before to realizing his dream. Last summer he was set to play for Dallas’ summer league team and Dentmon and his agent believed that the Mavs, whose president of basketball operations, Donnie Nelson, co-owns the Legends, were ready to sign him to a partially guaranteed NBA contract. That would get him to training camp in October where he could compete for a roster spot.

But disappointment followed. He didn’t play as much as he would have liked in the five summer league games and then four days later his desired contract fell through because Dallas re-signed veteran, but troubled guard Delonte West. Without an NBA contract, Dentmon returned to the D-League Toros this season to begin the fight all over again.

And now with just 13 games left in the Legends’ season, West’s shadow looms again. The Mavs waived West prior to the season for detrimental behavior and he’s been out of the league since. Five weeks ago he failed to report to the Legends after signing a contract, however he is apparently ready to join the team now in a late attempt to salvage his derailed career.

It’s a difficult pill to swallow for Dentmon. He essentially plays the same position and could lose essential playing time. It seems like that’s been a constant threat since the Legends traded for him on Jan. 22. West signed his original Legends deal on Jan. 25 and days later a report revealed the team was making a play for former NBA MVP Allen Iverson, who declined the invite.

Still, with flirtations with West and Iverson, the prospect Dentmon was left wondering what it all meant for him.

“I talked to Bill [his agent] and I’m like, ‘Bill what’s going on? They’re bringing in all these guys and they just traded for me,'” Dentmon said. “He just told me to continue to be me.”

So Dentmon does. He’s scored 30 or more points in five of the last 10 games and has averaged 27.9 points during that stretch to get the Legends on the cusp of playoff contention. He arrived to the team during a 12-game losing streak and has since helped them win six of their last nine. Still, he waits for the call he has yet to receive.

“I’m still hoping that he will,” said first-year Legends coach and former NBA forward Eduardo Najera. “I’ve been working with him in terms of mentoring what he needs to be doing. I think scoring takes you a long way, but you’ve still got to be able to play defense and be in great shape. I’ve been pounding on that because I really believe this kid, in top shape and he when plays individual defense — and we’ve been working on it every single day in practice — he can make it to the NBA and also stay there because he’s that talented.”

Dentmon, who went undrafted out of Washington in 2009, has played overseas in stints, in Israel and Italy and even the Dominican Republic. At home, he’s fought the constant battle of being labeled undersized and the perception that he’s a shooting guard trapped in a point guard’s body. He keeps coming back to the lower wages of the D-League, he said, because he deems it the second-best league in the world and the best way to make it to the No. 1 league.

I just really want to stay here, but playing here it seems like it keeps pushing me away,” Dentmon said. “I’m trying my hardest. Last year, I did a great job of playing the point and this year I’m playing a little bit of both, but it’s just tough, it’s tough.”

So he plays, practices and practices some more as he waits for the phone to ring. If it doesn’t ring soon, Dentmon said it will be time for him to make his own call whether to stay or go make a better livelihood playing overseas.

It all depends on if I’m getting any looks or if get called up this year,” he said. “If I don’t get any call-ups this year, maybe it’s telling me I need to go overseas for a little bit.”

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…)

Delonte West Does D-League U-Turn

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Delonte West has pulled an Allen Iverson and decided that the D-League isn’t for him.

Iverson, though, never actually signed a contract. He simply turned down an offer earlier this week to play for the Texas Legends, the affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks, as a means to help attract the attention of NBA teams. West did indeed sign a contract last week to play for the Legends, who are co-owned by Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson.

According to a source with knowledge of West’s thinking, the troubled combo guard has decided not to play in the D-League against the advisement of his representation. West is represented by agent Dan Fegan. The source said that NBA teams have been reluctant to bring in West, even on a 10-day contract, until he gets back on the court and they see him play. The Memphis Grizzlies recently kicked around the idea of offering West a 10-day contract, but no offer materialized.

Earlier on Friday, a league source said that West is in the process of changing agents, which could be delaying his arrival in Texas. That is, if it happens at all. As of Friday night, West’s name was on the Legends’ roster on the team website, although no number had been issued. Legends officials did not immediately answer messages Friday night.

While Iverson’s return to the NBA certainly appears as though it might never happen, he is 37 and had an All-Star career. West, 29, needs to get back in the league if he hopes to salvage a career that veered off course with his arrest in 2009 when he was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

He has since had a brief second stint with the Boston Celtics and played the 2011-12 season with the Mavs on a veteran minimum, one-year contract. West, who is bipolar and has struggled with money issues, signed another one-year deal to return to Dallas this season.

But twice during training camp the team suspended him for conduct it deemed detrimental to the team and they waived him just days before the start of the season.

West had been upset with his contract situation and with what he saw as an overcrowded backcourt after the team brought in Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo and Dahntay Jones to go with holdovers Vince Carter, Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones, plus first-round pick Jared Cunningham.

West reportedly wanted to join the Legends with hopes that he could show the Mavs he was ready to be a part of their team again. However, last Friday night Mavs owner Mark Cuban made it clear that he had no intention of bringing back West. Dallas signed veteran guard Mike James last Sunday for the remainder of the season after he exhausted two 10-day contracts.

Now, by opting not to play in the D-League, West could be throwing away his career.

Lieberman & Legends tip off D-League

Groundbreaking coach Nancy Lieberman and her Texas Legends tip off coverage of the NBA Development League’s 10th season Nov. 18 on VERSUS. The Legends, co-owned by Dallas Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson, are facing the defending D-League champion Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Lieberman, a Hall of Famer, is making her debut as the first female coach of a men’s professional team on national TV. VERSUS, in its second year with the D-League, will broadcast 11 regular-season games, six playoff games and the 2011 D-League Finals.

The network is also airing one live game from the annual D-League Showcase, in addition to the new slam-dunk and 3-point contests. The Showcase is taking place Jan. 10-13 in South Padre Island, Texas.

VERSUS is going all out this season. Look for micing players and coaches during both games and in-game interviews; coverage of pregame, halftime, and postgame speeches from the locker room; and more camera angles on the court.

There should be plenty of stories to tell. NBA rosters on opening night featured a record-tying 63 players with D-League experience. Some of those D-League vets include Shannon Brown (L.A. Lakers), Aaron Brooks (Houston Rockets), Will Bynum (Detroit Pistons), JJ Barea (Dallas Mavericks), Marcin Gortat (Orlando Magic), and Reggie Williams (Golden State Warriors).

Here’s the D-League broadcast schedule on VERSUS.

Lieberman goes to Summer school

Posted by Art Garcia

LAS VEGASNancy Lieberman has seen and done just about everything there is to do in basketball. The Hall of Famer and groundbreaking head coach of the new D-League Texas Legends went back to school somewhat during Summer League.

Lieberman talked technique and teaching philosophy with coaches and executives from around the NBA. She scouted players, keeping an out potential fits for the Legends. The experience proved enlightening.
Complete Summer League coverage on NBA.com
“It’s amazing the fraternity of coaches, and how willing and wanting they are for you to be successful,” said Lieberman, the first female coach of men’s professional basketball team. “I have rolodex of cards in front of me. Mitch Kupchak: ‘What do you need?’ Ronnie Rothstein: ‘What do you need?’

“It’s been great.”

Lieberman has been impressed by the level of talent and can’t wait to start working with it in a few months. The Legends don’t have any players yet.

“I need to be familiar with what they do well,” she said. “It’s the Summer League; guys are working on their games. Some are trying to prove they can play. Some are trying to get guaranteed money. Some are trying to establish themselves in Europe.

“No matter what happens, in November we’ll have a group of players and we will coach them with our philosophy and how we create our culture.”

The Legends, co-owned by Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson, begin play this fall in the Dallas suburb of Frisco. The franchise is already off to a good start, having sold more than 13,000 tickets for its inaugural season.