Since re-signing with the Mavericks last summer for $305 million over seven years, 7'6" Shawn Bradley has averaged career lows of 4.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.30 blocks and 15.0 minutes. "Do I have a lot of confidence in him?" asks coach Don Nelson. "No."
The Mavericks believe that Bradley failed to get in shape this season. Bradley maintains that he has been hampered by a sore right knee and by the new three-second defensive rule, which has prevented him from camping in the lane. He can accept Nelson's criticism because he believes the coach hasn't given up on him. "I know what he expects of me," Bradley says. "Deep down, he wants me to succeed."
The 29-year-old Bradley and everyone else agree that he's been working harder to get in shape since he came off the injured list last week. The Mavericks wouldn't thumb their nose at his return, either: He could upgrade the defense significantly, supplying shot blocking, along with 6'11" Raef LaFrentz, that would enable the Mavs to play tighter D on the perimeter. Nelson also hopes to try a big front-court of Bradley, LaFrentz and 7-foot Dirk Nowitzki.
"This team needs me, and I need this team," says Bradley. "I want to be part of things, or a bigger part of things."