Southwest Notes: Harrison, Kyrie, J. Smith, Spurs

When Mark Cuban, the majority owner of the Mavericks at the time, first reached out to longtime Nike executive Nico Harrison about the team’s general manager vacancy in 2021, Harrison declined an invitation to talk about the job, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. However, Harrison eventually decided to listen to what Cuban had to say and came around to the idea of accepting the top front office role in Dallas.

“We talked for an hour,” Harrison said of his initial conversation with Cuban. “He told me his process, which was going to go for a few weeks. And then the next day, he skipped the process and wanted to hire me. I think he was just thinking outside the box. And the one thing he always says is that I had a real job. He respected the background that I had at Nike and all the people that were in my organization, managing the budget and all that stuff. He always says, ‘You had a real job. You had a real job.’ So I think that was one of the things.”

During his time at Nike, Harrison established a relationship with Kyrie Irving, which came in handy at the 2023 trade deadline when the star guard became available with his stock near an all-time low following a handful of off-court controversies. As Amick details, that relationship emboldened Harrison to “ignore the outside noise,” as he puts it, and take a shot on Irving.

“I don’t want to call it a life raft or lifeline, but it was like family reaching out,” Irving told Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. “… This has been the greatest … portion of my career. To be able to now give wisdom and also speak from a place of experience. When you’re a young person, again, you’re trying to speed through life, you’re trying to get through everything.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Acting as an “NBA correspondent” at Wednesday’s NBA Finals media day, Rockets forward Jabari Smith asked Celtics star Jayson Tatum what advice he’d give to a young player entering his third season who feels like he hadn’t lived up to his pre-draft expectations. That characterization describes Smith, who made major strides in his second season but apparently believes he should have accomplished more after being drafted third overall in 2022. According to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required), Tatum advised Smith to avoid rushing the process. “It takes however long it takes,” Tatum said. “But as long as you work hard, you believe, you got the right support system — obviously, you do down in Houston; I know all those guys, coaches — everything will take care of itself how it’s supposed to.”
  • Kelly Iko and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic analyze the Spurs‘ options in the draft as they weigh how to best build around franchise player Victor Wembanyama. Vecenie loves the potential fit of UConn’s Stephon Castle next to Wembanyama, but says San Antonio should entirely rule out UConn’s other lottery talent, Donovan Clingan, since the two big men wouldn’t fit alongside one another. Vecenie also suggests that the Spurs should be open to trading down for extra value if Clingan is still on the board at No. 4 or even at No. 8.
  • Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required) takes a closer look at Matas Buzelis‘ skill set and considers how he might fit with the Spurs, outlining the case for San Antonio to use one of its two lottery picks on the former G League Ignite forward.
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