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DRAFTED BY DALLAS NINTH OVERALL IN 1981, ROLANDO BLACKMAN SPENT 11 years as a Mavericks guard. He returned to the club as defensive coordinator in 2000, the same year his number 22 jersey was retired. Blackman is now the Mavs' director of basketball development as well as an analyst for Fox Sports Southwest. He spoke with SI's Elizabeth McGarr.
SI: What was it like in your first couple of years in Dallas as the franchise was just trying to get off the ground?
RB: It was tough but also awfully exciting. We had great leadership with coach Dick Motta and [G.M.] Norm Sonju. The front office and the coaches made sure that the players and the fans knew we were going to take our lumps and bumps but that we would grow into something very special.
SI: What are your playoff memories?
RB: We had a fantastic run in winning against Seattle [in 1984] and having a chance to battle those great Portland teams [in '85 and '90]. We had a chance to beat the Lakers [in '88]. They had beaten us in the season series, but we thought we matched up well with them. We lost in the seventh game of the conference finals.
SI: Can you draw any parallels between the Mavericks of the early '80s and the early 2000s?
RB: The parallel is change and a bright new beginning. During my time as a player it was exciting because there were college players coming in and a championship coach [in Motta]. It was the same thing in 2000, when a great spirit like Mark Cuban came in and put his stamp on this team, trying to change a paradigm from losing, losing, losing, and trying to bring intensity while putting the resources together to get things done.
SI: You've been back with the Mavericks for more than a decade. What was different about this year's team?
RB: The biggest thing you saw throughout the year is how much the players needed each other. Coach [Rick] Carlisle and the assistant coaches melded all those talents together: the scoring of Dirk Nowitzki. The passing of Jason Kidd. The leadership and the responsibility of Jason Terry coming off the bench. The ability of J.J. Barea—also coming off the bench—to penetrate and break down defenses ended up being a great catalyst. And also just the defensive intensity of Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stevenson, which built up the reputation of this basketball team as guys who were not softies anymore, guys who were going to be strong and play the game defensively.
SI: How close has your relationship been with Dirk?