Mavs expect Best to replace Van Exel
DALLAS -- Point guard Travis Best went to a steak dinner with Dallas Mavericks officials Thursday night with a one-year contract a main topic of conversation.
The Mavericks already have called a news conference for noon Friday.
"We're optimistic people around here," said Donnie Nelson, the Mavericks' president of basketball operations.
The Mavericks want Best to back up All-Star Steve Nash. Their depth at point guard was depleted with the recent trade of Nick Van Exel and Avery Johnson to Golden State in a nine-player deal that brought Antawn Jamison and Danny Fortson to Dallas.
Nelson said the Mavs turned their attention to Best as soon as that deal was done. They consider it fortunate that someone of his caliber was still on the market.
"It's not any secret Travis is our highest priority at this point," Nelson said, adding that the dinner party included himself, team owner Mark Cuban and Jamison. "We're in a full-blown recruiting process.
"It should be clear that nothing has been signed. But there's strong interest on both sides."
A former first-round draft pick by Indiana, Best played for the Pacers on the 2000 team that reached the NBA Finals. He spent last season in Miami, averaging 8.4 points and 3.5 assists, both close to his career numbers. He's also a 35.5 percent 3-point shooter.
Dallas needs a quality backup for Nash because his all-out style often leaves him fatigued by season's end. Coach Don Nelson talks every year about reducing Nash's minutes in the regular season to keep him fresh for the playoffs.
"He fits what we're trying to do here perfectly," Donnie Nelson said. "He's got playoff experience, and he's seen and done it all in the NBA. He's got 3-point range, he's a real good decision-maker and he can be a scoring point guard. That's a lot like Nick."
After winning a franchise-record 60 games and reaching the conference finals for the second time in franchise history, the Mavericks' offseason got off to a bad start as they lost out on top priority free agent Alonzo Mourning. Karl Malone and Jason Kidd both showed interest in Dallas before signing elsewhere.
The deal with Golden State didn't provide the big man Dallas needs, but it should improve their frontcourt scoring while adding some rebounding. The loss of Van Exel would be cushioned if they sign Best.
"It's just very serendipitous that exactly what we needed was still on the board," Nelson said.
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press