Remembering Nick Van Exel

February 22nd, 2002 — the Dallas Mavericks pulled off one of the biggest trades in of the Mark Cuban era at the NBA trade deadline.

Sitting at 37-17 and leading the Midwest Division, the Mavericks would bolster their roster for a playoff push.

The team would trade Tim Hardaway, Juwan Howard, Donnell Harvey, cash, and a first round pick for Avery Johnson, Tariq Abdul-Wahad, Raef LaFrentz, and the one and only Nick Van Exel.

I still remember the trade going down and the excitement I felt. I ran straight to my Sega Dreamcast and MANUALLY made the trade (no automatic updates back then). While Adrian Griffin was the starter on the court, I vividly recall how I’d always start Steve Nash-NVE-Michael Finley-Dirk Nowitzk-Raef LaFrentz in the game. I’d just shoot three after three after three with that lineup.

Ok, way from the video game and to the hardwood.

No disrespect to Hardaway and previous Mavs reserves, but it was NVE who got the Mavs dominant 6th man trend rolling.

After being acquired from the Nuggets, he averaged 13.2 points and 4.2 assists in 27 games (2 starts) during the regular season. In eight playoff games he would average 11.1 points and 3.9 assists for the Mavs.

In his lone, full season with the Mavs, NVE averaged 12.5 points, 4.3 assists, and shot 37.8% from three, as the team would go 60-22 on the year. But it was during the 2003 playoffs “Nick the Quick” would leave his stamp on the Mavs.

The Mavericks would open the playoffs against the Portland TrailBlazers; the roster consisted of Rasheed Wallace, Arvadys Sabonis, Damon Stoudemire, Zach Randolph, Bonzi Wells, and Scottie Pippen.

Despite being up 3-0 against the Blazers, the Mavs would find themselves in a must win game 7. Nowitzki would have a monster game of 26 points and 17 rebounds, but NVE would also come up huge or the Mavs in the 107-95 win.

After the Blazers, the Sacramento Kings were next in line. Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, Doug Christie, Vlade Divac, Hedo Turkoglu, Mike Bibby, and Bobbie Jackson highlighted the stacked roster.

NVE and the Mavs would catch a break when Webber went down during game 2 and would miss the rest of the series with a torn ACL.

Down 1-0 early, NVE would score 76 points in the next two games to give the Mavs a 2-1 lead, with 40 of those coming in the game 3 double overtime win.

Like the Blazers series, the Mavs would be forced to a game 7. Once again, it was Nowitzki and you guessed it, NVE answering the call for the Mavs. Nowitzki would finish with 30 points and 19 rebounds in the 112-99 win. NVE would add 23 points off the Mavs bench.

In the seven game series, NVE averaged 25.3 points off the bench for the Mavs against the Kings.

Next up for NVE and the Mavs was the mighty San Antonio Spurs, who had the much younger Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. They also had Stephen Jackson, Malik Rose, Bruce Bowen, Steve Kerr, and Hall-of-Famer David Robinson on the roster.

The Mavs would fall 4-2 to the eventual champions, but NVE would again have a strong series off the Mavs bench. He averaged  17.5 points in the six game series loss.

In the 20 playoff games, he averaged 19.5 for the Mavs, but despite his strong play, the Mavs would move their mighty 6th man during the offseason for Antawn Jamison.

Despite playing a grand total of 128 games for the Mavs, NVE time in Dallas is one to remember.

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