Why weren’t the Nelsons at Dirk’s ceremony? Don says Mavs didn’t invite him; sources say otherwise

Two days have passed and the afterglow of Dirk Nowitzki’s jersey removal ceremony remains brilliant.

The speeches, video edits, music and the banner raise itself were poignant and practically perfect in every way – except, as more than a few fans pointed out. The news, for the notable absences of the two men most responsible for the transformation of Nowitzki into Maverick.

Don and Donnie Nelson. The general manager who acquired the draft rights from Nowitzki on the night of June 24, 1998 and the assistant general manager / son of Don who was emphatically optimistic about the raw NBA potential of 19-year-old Nowitzki.

The question is, why weren’t they there? On Friday evening, several sources strongly refuted Don Nelson’s claim earlier in the evening when he said The news: “I was not invited. I really wanted to be there, but I didn’t think I should just show up without an invitation, so I didn’t.

This is not true, two sources said. Both said Nowitzki had personally contacted the Nelson’s to invite them to the game and the ceremony. Both sources wondered why Nelson was saying otherwise.

Nowitzki and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban thanked the Nelsons during their speeches, but given the roles of the older and younger Nelsons in Nowitzki’s arrival and early career development, their physical absences were flagrant.

“I read what [Nowitzki] said, ”Nelson said. “It was good. I don’t think Dirk decided who was there. I think it’s a question of organization. Mark Cuban is in charge, I’m sure.

A source said The news that Cuban was not in charge of the guest list. This was done by an event planner. There was a three-page spreadsheet of guests that Nowitzki requested tickets for, but more than 60 were unable to make it to Dallas due to canceled flights that day or COVID- issues. 19.

“I was told Donnie was going to show up,” Cuban said. “But I haven’t spoken to any of them, so I have no idea what the deal was.”

If Cuba and the Nelsons don’t talk to each other, that wouldn’t be particularly surprising. After 24 years with the organization, the last 19 as president of basketball operations, Donnie Nelson was expelled by Cuba on June 16, days after the Mavericks failed to pass the first round of the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season.

Donnie Nelson has not commented publicly since leaving the Mavericks, and he has not responded to a post seeking comment for this story. But the man who hired Don Nelson as the Mavericks’ general manager in 1997 said he was shocked not to see Nelson at the ceremony either.

That man is Frank Zaccanelli, a minority owner of the Mavericks when Ross Perot Jr. was majority owner from 1996 to 2000.

“Dirk deserves all the accolades and tributes that anyone can pay him,” Zaccanelli said. “He’s the most important person in Mavericks history. And he’s one of the most important people in recent Dallas history.

“In the end, he deserves everything he gets and more, but it is clear that Cuban carries these loopholes and there were glaring holes. [Wednesday night]. Don Nelson, other than Holger [Geschwindner] and Dirk’s father, is more responsible for the maturing of Dirk Nowitzki than any other human being.

Zaccanelli stressed that he had no ill will against Cuba. He is well aware that Perot sued Cuba in 2010 for “financial mismanagement” of the Mavericks, a lawsuit that was dismissed, but Zaccanelli called Perot a “great landlord who never asked for credit” for major accomplishments in the country. during his tenure.

These included the hiring of the Nelsons; the acquisitions of Nowitzki, Steve Nash and Michael Finley; and the construction of the American Airlines Center.

“Cuba’s break with Ross Jr. is its break with Ross Jr.,” Zaccanelli said. “But without Ross Jr. he’d be just another billion dollar guy. [and] that nobody really knows much about. And it’s a [expletive] do. And not having Don Nelson at this ceremony, how could you do that?

“And I will say publicly: Mark Cuban owes me nothing. I’m not expecting anything. I never expect any accommodation, and I don’t want it. But for Ross Jr. and the Nelsons as far as Dirk Nowitzki, I mean, come on.

Cuban and Don Nelson have also been involved in previous litigation. Nelson in 2007 sued Cuban for $ 6.6 million, money he said he was entitled to after leaving the Mavericks and ultimately returning to Golden State. An arbitrator ultimately awarded Nelson the $ 6.6 million and $ 800,000 for attorney fees.

Yet that did not deter Cuba from continuing to employ Donnie Nelson until June. During his retirement ceremonial speech at Nowitzki, Cuban briefly credited the Nelson’s.

“More than anything else,” said Cuban, turning to Nowitzki, “for me and my family, for you and your family, for Holger, for all of your teammates always, for the Nelson’s who helped you get here, to everyone who has done it all it’s so special, thank you, Dirk.

Although he wasn’t at the American Airlines Center on Wednesday, there’s apparently a good chance Don Nelson will be one of Nowitzki’s presenters when he is inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, most likely at the during its first year of eligibility, the class of 2023.

Hall of Fame inductees can only be introduced by someone already in the Hall of Fame. Don Nelson was Nash’s presenter when he was inducted in 2018.

In his ceremonial jersey removal speech, Nowitzki effusively expressed his gratitude to both Nelson’s.

“I want to thank both Nelson, Donnie and Don. I had just been drafted and I wasn’t sure if I would come to the States, I wasn’t sure if I was ready.

“Immediately when they heard that they both got on the plane… and came to my hometown of Würzburg, met my family, met Holger and wanted to see my roots. It meant a lot to me. … They wanted me very hard, and that meant a lot to me. I will always remember that we had a barbecue at Holger’s and that they were staying with me in Würzburg. …

“The point of the story is that they made that effort to come through to make me feel welcome and want me to come there. … Old Nels with their philosophy of giving me freedom and letting me shoot. These two guys, I owe a lot. So, Nelsons, I will always be grateful.

As for the Hall of Fame, Nowitzki will surely be in charge of the invitations.

“I don’t travel anymore,” said Don Nelson, 81, “but I would have gone to Dallas to pay him my respect. If he asks me to put him in the Hall, I want to make sure I go, s ‘he invites me.

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Former Dallas Mavericks All-Star Dirk Nowitzki and his family watch his jersey lifted off the ground as the team retired the number 41 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on Jan.5, 2022.

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