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Whoa Nellie!

Mavs GM wheels and deals, finally gets his man Nowitzki

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Posted: Thursday June 25, 1998 01:09 AM

  Nowitzki averaged 17.5 points and 10 rebounds for DJK Wurzburg last season (AP)

DALLAS (AP) -- Dallas Mavericks general manager Don Nelson got the player he coveted. Next comes the full-court press to persuade 6-foot-11 German forward Dirk Nowitzki to give up the riches of Europe to play for one of the NBA's worst teams.

The Mavericks' predictably unpredictable leader pulled off a three-way trade during the first round of Wednesday's draft that left Dallas with Nowitzki and second-year guard Steve Nash.

But the deal was costly for Dallas, which gave up forwards Bubba Wells and Martin Muursepp and -- most importantly -- its No. 1 draft pick in 1999 to Phoenix in the trade for Nash.

Nelson said his strategy was to build through this draft and through free agency next year.

"This move speeds that process up," he said. "Nash is a guy that we've liked, and we were able to get him a year early."

Nelson's gamble is that Nowitzki, who averaged 17.5 points and 10 rebounds for DJK Wurzburg last season, will want to play in Dallas this year.

The agent for Nowitzki, who is currently in the German army, told teams that his client may choose to play professionally in Europe for the next season or two. In addition to remaining closer to home, Nowitzki can earn more money in Europe. As an NBA rookie, his salary is set for three years.

Nelson said the Mavericks would fight hard to persuade the 20-year-old German.

"He's going to have some very fine offers over there," Nelson said. "We would hope to change his mind."

Nelson said he and his son, assistant coach Donnie Nelson, would leave for Germany on Thursday along with team owner Ross Perot Jr. Nash, whose family lives in England, also will join the recruiting committee.

"Hopefully we can all meet in Germany and convince him this is the place to be," Nelson said.

The Mavericks called Nowitzki as soon as they wrapped up the deal to say they were on their way.

"We just said, 'We're coming. Make sure you don't sign a contract before we talk to you.' And they're not. They're going to wait and show us that respect," Nelson said. "That's about all we can expect at this point."

Nowitzki went to the Nike Hoop Summit in San Antonio in late March and was the best player on the court, scoring 33 points with 14 rebounds before going back to Germany and the army.

Scouts say Nowitzki has uncommon skills for a big man and is more advanced than Seattle forward Detlef Schrempf was at the same age.

The Mavericks need all the help they can find, here or abroad. Dallas finished 20-62 last season and missed the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year, highest in the NBA.

Nelson started Wednesday with the sixth overall pick, along with the 30th, 35th and 53rd picks.

He picked Michigan forward Robert "Tractor" Traylor with the No. 6 pick and sent him to Milwaukee for the ninth and 19th picks.

Dallas had the Bucks use No. 9 to draft Nowitzki for the Mavericks and then use No. 19 to draft Notre Dame guard Pat Garrity for the Suns. For Nash, the Suns got Garrity, Wells, Muursepp and Dallas' first-round pick in 1999.

With the 30th pick, the first selection of the second round, Dallas took Mississippi forward Ansu Sesay, who averaged 18.6 points last season and was Southeastern Conference player of the year. Sesay played high school basketball at Sugar Land, Texas.

Nelson went international again with the sixth pick of the second round, the 35th pick overall, taking 7-2 Croatian center Bruno Sundov. The 18-year-old averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds in high school last season.

Greg Buckner, a 6-4 guard who averaged 14.4 points during four years at Clemson, was taken by Dallas with the 53rd overall pick.

Nash, 24, was the 15th overall pick in last year's draft by Phoenix. The 6-3, 195-pound guard averaged 9.1 points and 3.4 assists in 21.9 minutes last season.

"He's going to be our point guard," Nelson said. "He'll be terrific in our system."

Nelson, who is never dull on Draft Day, picked Iowa State center Kelvin Cato for Portland with the 15th pick last year and then had the Blazers take 7-foot Australian Chris Anstey 18th. They then swapped players, with Portland throwing in an some cash.

This week, Nelson told reporters he was focusing on North Carolina teammates Antawn Jamison and guard Vince Carter, along with Kansas forward Raef LaFrentz and Saint Louis guard Larry Hughes.

He also told reporters not to believe a word he said. Which, as it turned out, was the only thing he said that was true.

 

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