The Mavericks D-League professional basketball team took to the court on Tuesday night for their inaugural Fan-Jam at Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco. For those who don't know, the Legends are owned by a trio of men: Mavericks General Manager Donnie Nelson, Chairman of Green Mountain Energy Evan Wyly, and Sonny Xiao. With Sonny Xiao's placement in the ownership, he is the first Chinese-born owner in NBA history. To round out the rest of the front office, President of Operations is Spud Webb, the General Manager is Del Harris, and Hall-of-Famer Nancy Lieberman is the team's head coach.
NBA fans might be able to recognize a member of Lieberman's coaching staff, David Wesley. His NBA career lasted from 1993–2007. He did start to do some managing work for his alma mater, Baylor University, but this will be his first official coaching job. Even before his days in the NBA, Wesley realized coaching was a passion. When did the passion materialize? "When i was a freshman in high school," said Wesley. "I coached my younger brother and he's four years younger than me and I knew someday I would be a coach....It's been a lot of work but a lot of fun as well." Imagine the mental encyclopedia David Wesley can recite to his players, he's seen everything and even was a teammate of LeBron James in 2006–2007.
Another familiar face will be Antonio Daniels. A veteran since 1997, Daniels was selected by the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League in the second round (pick 13) of the 2010 NBA Development League Draft. Without even seeing a second of game action, you can see his teammates look to him as a leader and library of NBA information. "I just want to continue to learn," said Daniels. "Once I stop learning, it's time for me to retire." Daniels is looking to play his way back into the NBA and many believe that his stint in Frisco will be short-lived. "There is no replacement for Antonio Daniels," said Coach Nancy Lieberman. "He is going to make us look better." Daniels plans on being a player-coach for these young hopefuls and he's enjoying every bit of it, including his time with the new coach, "It's been awesome, it's been a lot of fun. Nancy is amazing, big-time basketball mind. She's very confident in what she teaches and who she is." Legends General Manager Del Harris had nothing but praise for Daniels, "Antonio is a teacher for these players and he gives a lot of stability to the team."
After talking to several players, I was able to notice that on top of everyone huddling around Wesley and Daniels to hear fun stories and seek advice, there is a strong sense of friendship amongst the team. Several players mentioned that they all went to the Mavericks game against New Orleans on Monday and many more team events are planned. When I asked Coach Lieberman about the unity early on she said, "It's huge...even though we are in training camp, you can see the camaraderie." She even mentioned she is planning to have the team over to her home in the very near future and cook them dinner on top of other team-building activities.
What does Nancy think about co-owner Donnie Nelson, ""Donnie is Donnie, he's in a league by himself. You learn more about people when you're in the trenches with them and when you work with them," said Nancy. "Donnie is the type of guy you want in the foxhole with you. He's hardworking, he's loyal, he puts great people around you and he gives you a chance to do things that nobody would risk doing."
Del Harris and Donnie Nelson commented that this has been a couple of years in the making to get to Frisco, after the Fort Worth Flyers were disbanded in 2007. Some notable players from the Flyers: J.J. Barea, Jamario Moon, Kelenna Azubuike, Martell Webster, Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Louis Williams. All of those players are currently in the NBA. "This kind of started when the Fort Worth team left and that kind of broke my heart because that was a cool community asset," said Donnie Nelson. "People could come watch guys like J.J. Barea get better by the game and it's a really cool developmental tool for young kids."
The Legends are a fun family product providing plenty of entertainment for people of all ages. The team takes the floor this evening against the Rio Grande Vipers (the Houston Rockets affiliate) at 7pm and can be seen on Versus.
Other Notable Players
- Sean Williams: Product of Houston, Texas and was drafted by the New Jersey Nets in 2007.
- Curtis Terry: 6-5 wing player, graduated from UNLV in 2008 and coming back after playing overseas. Any relation to Jason? Yes, they're brothers!
- Reece Gains: Arrived via trade from the Bakersfield Jam. 6-6 guard from Louisville, drafted by the Magic in '03.
- Moussa Seck: 7-4 center, has been a part of the Mavericks summer league team over the past two years.
- Booker Woodfox: 6-1 shooter who provides energy. He won the Missouri Valley Conference 6th Man of the Year award in 2007-2008
- Matt Rogers: Selected 4th overall in this year's draft. As a 6-11 forward from Southwest Baptist, Rogers was the NCAA Division II Player of the Year last year. He is recovering from an ACL surgery that took place in February.