They have worked so close together over the years that Donnie Nelson has all the confidence in the world that Michael Finley is going to bring home the top prize for the Dallas Mavericks when the NBA holds its annual Draft Lottery on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. CT from the Palmer House Hilton hotel in Chicago. Nelson is the president of basketball operations for the Mavs, and he has been grooming Finley – the Mavs’ vice-president of basketball operations – to one day take his place. For now, though, since Finley will be representing the Mavs at the Draft Lottery, Nelson will be at home cheering on his protégé to win the league’s annual extravagant ping-pong event for the first time in franchise history.
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“And (Finley is) going to bring his mom, Bertha,” Nelson said. “And they’re going to bring every good luck charm known to man, and we are going to do this. “Hopefully his luck is a lot better than mine. At least I didn’t move backwards. I held serve.”
Fast-forward some 23 years later, Nelson and Finley are again working side-by-side. But those memories from their days with the Suns never fade. “I just can’t say enough about Michael Finley and (how I had) just the complete joy to not only be able to shag balls for him when he and I were in Phoenix together, but to be part of developing him as a young player,” Nelson said. “But to see him come into his own as an executive, it’s just incredible.”
The international squad Nowitzki would join — which also featured future N.B.A. players Luis Scola (Argentina), Darius Songaila (Lithuania) and Dan Gadzuric (Holland) — was already practicing in Dallas by the time he arrived. [….] What the two Germans didn’t realize going into their adventure is that the bulk of the international team’s practices were scheduled to take place in the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center, where the Mavericks practiced in the days before they had their own practice facility. They also didn’t know that a key member of the Mavericks’ brain trust — Donnie Nelson — was scheduled to serve as an assistant coach with Nike’s international invitees that week. Such an arrangement, of course, wouldn’t even be allowed in the modern N.B.A. But the league’s rules on scouting matters weren’t as restrictive 20 years ago, enabling Nelson to have a hands-on role throughout the early years of the Hoop Summit, starting when he was still working for the Phoenix Suns. As a result, Dallas was able to start building a relationship with Geschwindner — and thus Nowitzki — before the wunderkind even took the floor in San Antonio.
It was left to Donnie Nelson to remind his dad that the Mavericks had committed to drafting Nowitzki. All these years later, for his part, Nowitzki remains convinced that sneaking away to Texas in the spring of “98 was the crucial catalyst for it all. “At first I actually told Holger that I didn’t want to go [to the NBA the season after being drafted],” Nowitzki said. “I was not happy with the idea of leaving my team. But if I didn’t play in that game, I’m not sure what my path to the N.B.A. would have been. Maybe I would have played in Spain or Italy first. Maybe I would have gone to college first. All the options were still on the table back then.” In a phone interview last week, Geschwindner said from Germany: “It was a pretty big gamble and we got really beaten up for that — I was ‘misleading’ a youngster and he was ‘selfish.’ Right now it’s easy to talk about, but back then our butts were on fire.”
Melissa Weishaupt: I am using my name because I am convinced that Cuban still doesn’t recognize the culture he’s helped create or the plight of the women who still work for him. From where I sit, Mark’s response was to rush in like some white knight in a T-shirt and jeans and yell, Don’t worry, ladies of the Mavs, I will help you with paid counseling and a hotline you can call! Now you want to help? We are not fragile flowers. We don’t long for counseling. (As for that hotline: I’ve spoken with a dozen current and former team employees; we have no idea what this is or how to find it.) We want equitable pay. We need to be treated with respect. When deserved, we ought to be given the same promotions as our male counterparts.
Melissa Weishaupt: I’m using my name because I know that the human resources department is not always a safe haven. At the Mavericks—and I’m sure elsewhere—HR was there to protect management, not employees. Many workers, especially middle-class and minority workers do not have a voice or an advocate at their jobs. They should chronicle what happens around them, find a support group outside of work. But they should be cautious in dealing with HR. Yes, I was harassed while I worked for the Mavericks. But I am using my name now because I will never say that I am a victim. I am tougher. I am wiser. I am my own advocate.
As for the Greek Freak: Who made final call to pass him up, and why? “It was me,” Cuban said. “Donnie [Nelson] was like, ‘OK, I’m putting my you-know-whats on the table.’ He was doing the Sam Cassell, Nick Van Exel dance. … It’s all in. And I’m like, ‘Donnie, we have this plan.’ Because even as good as the Greek Freak has turned out to be, he was still three years away, and we wanted to try to get somebody who could help get us to the top right there and then. Didn’t turn out that way, it is what it is, that happens.”
“Our guys were like, ‘We should take the Greek Freak,'” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said recently on Sirius XM NBA Radio, recalling the 2013 draft. “All we had was two tapes, and someone who would go to see him, but we were trying to get Dwight [Howard] — that was the Dwight year, too. And, OK, we’re trying, we have a plan, we’re gonna stick to it. We thought we had a good shot. Didn’t turn out that way.”
Making an appearance on the ESPN telecast of the Mavs’ Las Vegas Summer League game against Phoenix on Sunday, Cuban said things would different if his team — coming off its first losing season since he took over in 2000 — were in the Eastern Conference. “We’re rebuilding, there’s no question about it,” said Cuban, who made headlines in May when he admitted the Mavericks tanked after being eliminated from playoff contention. “If we were in the East, we would not be rebuilding. We’d be handling things completely different.”
Eddie Sefko: Mark Cuban on who has final call in draft: “Donnie (Nelson). Always. The only time I get involved is money and the money is already set.”
Earl K. Sneed: Dirk Nowitzki says he hasn’t had any discussion with the @Dallas Mavericks front office about Year 2 of his current deal. Mavs have a team option. pic.twitter.com/35IiFRbgXm
But with the Mavs eager to retool this summer in order to build a championship contender, Nowitzki says he’s ready to work with team owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson to help with the reconstruction of the roster. “You know, if you go on with a team like I have for so long, if that’s what it takes, I guess that’s what it takes. I did that decision last summer when I decided to sign on,” Nowitzki explained after completing the first season of a reported two-year deal worth $50 million. “I obviously knew there was a possibility (of rebuilding), and at the end of the day I just can’t imagine myself in a different uniform, so that’s why I made that decision. Whatever comes, if we’re rebuilding, then I’m the face of that. If we’re (competing) for a championship, then I’m here for that.”
Nowitzki: “I’ve just identified myself with the organization so long, with the fan base here and with the city that, you know, no matter what the team or the franchise is going through, I’m right there to push it through. That’s why I signed on for two more years last year, and we’ll just wait and see what team we have next year. But I’m here, obviously, to help in any way I can and whatever situation we’re going to be in next year.”
“Unfortunately, since there’s no playoffs, we’ve got plenty of time now,” Nowitzki candidly said. “I’ll be around for a while, and I’m sure we’ll meet with Mark and with Donnie. You know, [Mavs coach Rick Carlisle] will be here and even [leading scorer Harrison Barnes], and we’ll just see how we can help and how we can make this better. Maybe I’ll be in the draft room this year, if that’s what it takes. … I think we’ve got plenty of time over the next few weeks to set a plan, execute the plan on draft day hopefully and maybe in free agency, and we’ll go from there.”
Dwain Price: “And I don’t care what the reaction is. Everyone in the organization has been very positive.” — Mark Cuban on the addition of Tony Romo
From Cuban’s perspective, having a top-notch coach is just as critical to success as finding a top-notch player. And when it comes to Carlisle, Cuban believes he’s one of the top three in the business. “I’ve said a million times, hiring a coach is the hardest job in professional sports,” Cuban said. “And we got lucky; we’ve got a good one.” Carlisle is the franchise’s winningest coach with 411 victories and ranks 19th on the NBA’s all-time list with 692 wins. He needs just five more victories to pass Red Holzman for 18th place on that illustrious list, and just eight more to become the 18th coach with at least 700.
“My agent said it’s probably not going to happen, but I’m not the right guy to ask. The only thing I can tell you is I’m not banging on [Mark] Cuban’s door or Donnie’s [Nelson] door asking for a trade, contrary to what was [written] last month.”
Tim MacMahon: Mark Cuban is the general manager of the Dallas Mavericks. Let’s not get that twisted at all. Donnie Nelson does a lot of the contract negotiations, does a lot of the trade talks, but he does not make any of the decisions. Mark Cuban makes every single basketball decision. Mark Cuban makes decisions a lot of times where Donnie and Rick Carlisle have great input and sometimes makes decisions that go in the face of their advice.
Dirk Nowitzki on his future:: “My goal is to fulfil my contract. In the summer I signed for two more years. But I also have to check on my health. No one knows where I will go later, but I think that I’ll always have a home here in Dallas. I have been here for 20 years now, my wife for ten. If I want to, I would get a job at the Mavericks so I think we might stay here after the end of my career.”
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May 24, 2018 | 1:28 pm EDT Update
Mark Medina: Steve Kerr believes Klay Thompson will play. Andre Iguodala listed as a game-time decision
Adam Himmelsbach: The Celtics went back to being all-in on Marcus Morris as their LeBron shadow in Game 5. After guarding LeBron for 39 of 158 possessions in Cleveland, he was on him for 46 of 84 last night.
Tommy Beer: Lebron’s stats in his last 7 games facing elimination: * 45 points, 8 rebs, 7 assists * 41 points, 13 rebs, 8 assists * 31 points, 10 rebs, 11 assists * 27 ponts, 11 rebs, 11 assists * 41 points, 8 rebs, 11 assists * 41 points, 16 rebs, 7 assists * 32 points, 18 rebs, 9 assists
Northwestern point guard Bryant McIntosh is scheduled to be among those who work out for the Lakers on Friday. McIntosh, who is third all-time in the Big Ten in assists, helped lead Northwestern to its first-ever NCAA Tournament berth in 2016-17 and became the first Division 1 player in 13 years to post 16 assists with no turnovers in a game against Minnesota this past season.