- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2005

Don Nelson finally got tired of Mark Cuban looking over his shoulder.

Nelson, who resigned as coach of the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, was tired of watching former Mavericks point guard Steve Nash lead a rival team to a 60-win season.a He was tired of creating the most creative mismatches in the league and hearing his Internet geek of an owner whine about the team’s defense.

But mostly, the 64-year-old Nelson was tired of winning 1,000 games, still winning 50 every season and hearing his job security called into question.

Nellie said all the right things, of course, in front of Cuban and Avery Johnson, Nelson’s celebrated successor.

“I just think it’s time,” said Nelson, who will remain with the team as a consultant. “We want to win games and we want to get better, and I didn’t see us doing either of the above since the All-Star Game.”

The Mavericks were 42-22 as he spoke but just 7-6 since the All-Star break and 9-4 when Johnson has subbed for Nelson.

“I see a little slippage as a team,” he said. “The team is just responding better to Avery at this point.”

That’s because this team, thanks to Cuban’s meddling, is built for Johnson’s defensive mentality instead of Nelson’s offensive style.

The Mavericks haven’t been Nelson’s team since the 2002-03 season, when he won 60 games and came within one game of the NBA Finals. And Nellie did it his way ” with small ball, odd lineups and transition 3-pointers, with Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Nick Van Exel, Michael Finley and even Shawn Bradley having fun and averaging 103 points a game.

But Dallas, with Nowitzki injured, lost Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, and Cuban panicked, trading Van Exel for Antawn Jamison and acquiring the low percentage Antoine Walker.

Last summer, Cuban opted not to re-sign Nash, who is now an MVP candidate in Phoenix, in favor of Erick Dampier, who is recovering from a stress fracture in his right foot.

Nellie seemed less than enthused this season about coaching a team he didn’t build. He freely took time off for shoulder surgery and to be with his wife as she recovered from surgery.

But Nellie’s rebuilding job in Dallas was brilliant.

His development of Nowitzki, a 7-foot German who shoots like a guard, was his masterstroke, highlighting Nellie’s two legacies ” the influx of foreign players into the league and his ability to create mismatches.

In the end, it was Nelson who was mismatched with Cuban, and it was a battle he couldn’t win.

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