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.
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press