The Mavs have gone to the four corners—of the earth, that is—in search of talent
Since joining the Mavericks in 1997, then joining forces with owner Mark Cuban three years later, Don Nelson has turned Dallas into the NBA's Ellis Island, a refuge for those huddled masses with basketball shoes and perimeter game. It started in June 1998 when the Mavs traded for the draft rights to German-born Dirk Nowitzki and acquired the Canadian Coif, Steve Nash, from the Suns. Then, in 1999, Dallas took a chance by drafting 7' I" Wang Zhizhi, the Slinging Beijingian, with the 36th pick. Two years later he joined the team. Mexican-born Eduardo Najera, acquired from the Rockets in a draft-day deal, joined the mix in June 2000. This February, French-born swingman Tariq Abdul-Wahad came over from the Nuggets in a trade. (He was left off the postseason roster.) "Having players who are national heroes adds quite a bit to the team," says Cuban. "Having a whole country counting on you to represent them and win is a whole lot more pressure than an NBA playoff game."
The agent for Ognjen Askrabic, a forward from Sarajevo, has already announced that his client, known as Oggy, would be happiest with the Mavs. "They need someone from Yugoslavia," says Marc Cornstein. "It's the only country they don't have."