It was reported that several players were circling the Pepsi Arena parking lot in their cars on the morning of Dec. 11 to make sure that no one broke ranks. But a majority of the Nuggets did come to the arena that day—in case the boycott was rescinded at the last minute. Players describe a panicky scene of teammates running into the locker room and back out to their cars, wondering whether McCloud, McDyess or Van Exel would show up.
"You didn't know what was going to happen," says second-year forward James Posey, who was among those in the parking lot. "You didn't want to be the one who was at home if we decided to call [the boycott] off."
When no one appeared on the court for practice, Issel's staff found several players in the locker room, including backups Ryan Bowen, Terry Davis, Calbert Cheaney and Tracy Murray. While they hadn't wanted to break ranks, they didn't want to put their careers at risk either. "When we realized what was going on, we told them to go home," says Issel. "If that's what they were going to do, they ought to do it all together."
Posey told The Denver Post that the team talked about boycotting the Dec. 12 home game against Miami, but Posey and his teammates now deny that was ever considered. In the meantime Issel says he has tried to mend his frazzled relationship with LaFrentz, who through Tuesday had averaged 15.4 points since the protest. Stanley Kroenke, the first-year owner of the Nuggets, has said that Issel will remain as coach for the rest of this season at least—which means Issel probably has to lead Denver to the playoffs to keep his job.
The players insist they weren't trying to get Issel fired—they only wanted his attention. The night after the boycotted practice they lost at home to the Heat 96-85 while their coach sat uncharacteristically mute on the bench. The three captains held another meeting. On the morning of Dec. 13 they demanded that Issel resume hollering at them. "It's not right for us to force Dan to act out of character," McCloud says. "We need him to be himself."
"It wasn't fun to go through," says Issel. "But if we continue to play well, then it was worth going through."
Mavericks Guard Steve Nash
He Finally Gets The Points
Here's a story you don't hear every day: It's about an NBA sharpshooter who didn't want to shoot. "I keep kidding him that he's a slow learner," Mavericks G.M. and coach Don Nelson says of 26-year-old Steve Nash, who has emerged as one of the league's most exciting point guards. "For a long time Steve shot only when he had to, when there was a short amount of time on the shot clock."
After acquiring Nash from the Suns in June 1998 for the rights to Pat Garrity, two players and a first-round draft choice (used by Phoenix in 1999 to select Shawn Marion), Nelson wanted the inherently unselfish Nash to behave more selfishly and look for his own shot Nash insists that he wasn't resistant to the notion—it's just that his body wouldn't let him do it. In his first season in Dallas he battled plantar fasciitis in his right foot, which led to back ailments. Signed to a six-year, $33 million deal, he was booed at Reunion Arena and criticized as slow and inconsistent.
Last season Nash missed 25 games with a strained tendon in his right ankle but while sitting out recovered from his other injuries. Since his return at midseason he has become the point guard Nelson envisioned, turning fast-breaking Dallas into one of the league's most entertaining teams. Nash is sure-handed in dense traffic, passes in ways reminiscent of Bob Cousy—over the head, behind the back—and feeds the open man so that he can fire quickly and naturally. "Usually perimeter players will eventually move inside and clog the lane," assistant coach Kiki Vandeweghe says. "Our guys hold their spots because they're so confident in Steve's ability to get them the ball."