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Point guard expected to back up Nash

DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks can thank Bobbie Best for
helping them land their new backup point guard.

Her son, Travis, was having second thoughts about taking a
one-year deal with Dallas for the veteran minimum of just under $1
million. Detroit and Indiana both called asking him to hold off,
and Best started thinking he could get more money from one of the
other clubs.

His mother wouldn't hear of it.

Despite never having weighed in on any of his basketball
decisions -- from going to Georgia Tech to recent talks with the
Boston Celtics, close to her home in Springfield, Mass. -- she broke
her silence with a phone call that woke Best up early Wednesday.

"Travis, the good Lord has opened up a path for you to go to
the team that you've wanted to go to all along," she told him.
"Don't let money steer you in the wrong direction. The last two
years, you've really been unhappy where you've been. This is a
situation where you can be happy."

In the background, Best heard his sister Darlene chime in, too,
saying, "Yeah! Yeah!"

When Best hung up with his mother, he called his agent, Forrest
King. They got in touch with the Mavericks and finalized everything
over dinner Thursday night.

Best was introduced at a news conference Friday. King's cell
phone rang twice during the 15-minute session and the second time
King said his caller ID showed that it was another team on the
line.

"I think they're a little late," he said.

Best, a solid ballhandler with good shooting range, will give
Dallas fresh legs when All-Star Steve Nash needs a rest. Preserving
him is a top priority because his energetic style tends to burn him
out by playoff time.

Nick Van Exel did a stellar job in the role the last season and
a half. However, he and his backup, Avery Johnson, were sent to
Golden State earlier this week in a nine-player deal that brought
Antawn Jamison and Danny Fortson to Dallas.

Best had informally talked to the Mavericks earlier this summer,
reminding them he was available should they need another point
guard. Yet it didn't immediately click to him that the Warriors
trade created that opportunity.

"Initially, I was thinking that was a heck of a deal for
Dallas. And then I remembered, 'Hey, I'm still out here,' " said
Best, who signed for only one year because he plans to try cashing
in again next summer.

Because of Van Exel's offensive skills, coach Don Nelson often
used him and Nash together in a small-ball lineup. It worked great
at times, especially in the playoffs against Sacramento. Nelson
called Van Exel the MVP of that series, which sent the Mavs to the
conference finals.

Don't expect a Nash-Best backcourt too often, said Donnie
Nelson, the president of basketball operations and an assistant to
his father.

"We did that last year out of necessity," Donnie Nelson said.
"Hopefully this year we can play some bigger lineups where we're
not forced to play all those zones and gimmicks."

Van Exel also gave the Mavericks some grit, while Johnson, the
only player on the roster who had won a championship, was a vocal
leader.

Best described himself as more of a quiet type, but his
experience of playing in the finals with Indiana in 2000 was
pointed to by Nelson as one of the things that made Best so
attractive.

"I think there's a certain calmness to know that you've been
through it," Best said. "You know what kind of pressure is
involved, that the whole world is watching two teams play
basketball."

For Dallas, his addition turns what had been a frustratingly
calm offseason into a very productive one. The Mavs also still have
their two salary-cap exception slots available.

"I really feel confident to say we've improved a 60-win team,"
owner Mark Cuban said.

Cuban also noted a difference between the offseason moves by his
team and those by his top Western Conference rivals.

"We're the only team that's gotten younger," he said.