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Sunday, December 19, 2004

Thank You, Lord, for Lasagna, Mommy and Steve Nash

Bouncing around the nation's Sunday sports pages, the Mavs' revolving-door PG situation seemed to be an attractive target for NBA writers. DA ain't bad, but gold dust is still just dust. Terry is strolling thru his Mav experience without a care, and without busting a sweat. 'Future Cornerstone' Devin Harris' reed-like frame = WYSIWYG. His quickness surprises a few people between the circles, but is really just aimless rocketry. His shooting form is bleak. His handle is loose in traffic. I see too much standing, his arms hanging straight down by his sides too often when off the ball. I see zero rebounding want-to. I see weak hoop fluidity and savvy. Homeboy has miles to go before he shows me something. And I don't mean stuff like that sick freakin' jam he had against the Hawks. Beno Udrih will NEVER have a highlight so spectacular, yet there's no doubt which between the two is currently the better PG prospect...

Finding His Place in Larger N.B.A. Community
NY Times
Published: December 19, 2004

Beno Udrih, his brother, Samo, and his father, Silvo, are the first family of basketball in Sempeter, Slovenia.

"Well, yeah, in my town it's easy to be known," Udrih said. "There are only two million people in Slovenia and maybe 5,000 people in my town. It's more like a village."

It took more than a village for Udrih to get to the San Antonio Spurs. With what is perhaps the N.B.A.'s most complete team, he is a fast-rising rookie point guard, a left-hander backing up another lefty import, Tony Parker of France.

Udrih's father played in Yugoslavia's second-division professional league. Udrih and his brother began their careers in Slovenia's pro league.

"My father didn't force me to play basketball," Udrih said. "I played handball, football, soccer. I came home one day and a basketball coach asked me to come try out for a team when I was 9."

By the time Udrih was 17, he was a better basketball player than his brother, who is three years older.

Samo Udrih plays in Israel's second-tier league.

"Sometimes you don't need to be better, you got to have some luck, too," Beno Udrih said. "I had a little bit of luck."

He had some hard luck, too. After a promising debut with Slovenia's top team, Olimpija, Udrih struggled with injuries and consistency when he played with Maccabi Tel Aviv.

He moved around last season, starting with a team in Russia and finishing in Italy. At the N.B.A.'s predraft camp in Chicago, he impressed teams that had not paid attention to him.

The Spurs drafted Udrih at No. 28, the same slot they used to choose Parker in 2001.

"We didn't think he'd still be there," Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said of the 6-foot-3 Udrih.

Udrih and Parker, each 22, complement each other well. "Tony is an outstanding defender and very explosive; Beno spreads the court a little more because of his shot," Popovich said.

Udrih has averaged 13.5 minutes a game. When Parker was limited to 29 minutes last Wednesday against Orlando because of a groin muscle injury, Udrih sparked the Spurs' 10-point fourth-quarter comeback. He hit two 3-pointers and two free throws and had seven assists in the victory.

"He's a natural point guard, really understands the position," Popovich said. "He's got a great pace about himself: when to speed up, speed down. He's a grade-A passer: hits people on time."

Udrih has so far dispelled the Spurs' doubts that he could handle the physical N.B.A. game.

"The bonus is, we didn't know he was a 3-point shooter," Popovich said.

Through Friday, Udrih was shooting 47.2 percent from 3-point range, fourth in the N.B.A. But his cool court savvy is his calling card.

"He brings a different look, he's got great passes," the Spurs' Rasho Nesterovic, a fellow Slovene, said. "He sees that open guy when nobody sees him. He's just an all-around player."

Udrih comes by it naturally.

[So far, I just think Beno has a far better chance of someday reminding us of Steve Nash than Harris does. Speaking of Steve Nash, from the Memphis Commercial Appeal ...]

Nash has Suns stock on the rise

Mavs, meanwhile, floundering at PG

By Ronald Tillery
December 19, 2004

For an astute assessment of how much Steve Nash means to the team that signs his checks, look at Dallas.

Yep, Nash plays for the fast-breaking, awe-inspiring, you'd better-start-believing-in-the Phoenix Suns. Still, it's Nash's absence in Dallas that speaks volumes about his play in Phoenix.

He's only doing what Dallas owner Mark Cuban wouldn't pay a non-maximum contract for, and the Suns -- not the Mavericks -- are championship caliber.

Talk about lucky No. 13.

The Mavs tried their third starting point guard, Jason Terry, Saturday. Terry stepped in because recently acquired Darrell Armstrong didn't ignite any fire, and rookie Devin Harris proved to be nothing more than a 30-second sparkle to start the season.

Nash, meanwhile, led the NBA as of last Friday with 11 assists per game, proving that a team's success is nothing without the high-paid leading man providing quality with the quickness.

How much of an impact is Nash having on his new team?

New York Newsday's NBA writer Barbara Barker recently revealed that Zach Sarver, the three-year-old son of the Suns' new managing owner, Robert Sarver, included in his Thanksgiving Day prayer a hearty thanks for "lasagna, Mommy and Steve Nash."

Signed as a free agent this summer, Nash fit right in with teammates Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion to produce the league's highest octane offense (109.4) and biggest early-season surprises.

This is the same Suns squad that won 29 games last season.

Nash is making the type of difference Jason Kidd did when he joined the New Jersey Nets before the 2001-02 season.

"Their whole team feeds off of him," said Cleveland coach Paul Silas, whose squad beat the Grizzlies in FedExForum last week. "He just changed the complexion of the team. They're a throwback to the old days where teams just run-and-gunned, played pick-and-roll. 109 points in the NBA today? That's awesome."

Took the words right out of Cuban's mouth.

Errrrrrr ... thanks for the hoop, Pops.

What does nose hair smell like?

At the end of the game, both the Kings and the Pawns go into the same box.


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October 8, 2005 at 11:33 AM  

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