MINNEAPOLIS -- Dirk Nowitzki can't remember the first time he heard the term "stretch four.''
The term is commonly used when folks refer to power forwards like the Dallas Mavericks' 11-time All-Star who can stretch the floor with their three-point accuracy.
Nowitzki said: "When I first got in the league. . .I think a lot of (power forwards) and (centers) were more back-to-back basket players.''
When Nowitzki entered the NBA in time for the strike-shortened 1998-'99 season, his coach was Don Nelson, who was the master of the zany offenses and other innovations that took scoring to a whole new level. Nelson gave Nowitzki so much lee-way that he doesn't know if he would have blossomed into the player he is today without that freedom.
"I've got to give Nellie a lot of credit,'' Nowitzki said following this morning's shootaround at the Target Center. "He was an offensively genuis.
"He was a coach when I first got to Dallas, and if I would have gone to any other system I don't if I would have turned out that way.''
The 7-foot Nowitzki even thought that if another coach besides Nelson would have been coaching the Mavs when he was a rookie, he probably wouldn't have enjoyed much of an NBA life on the perimeter.
"They probably would have sent me to the weight room when I first got there to lift weights and put on 20 pounds and I'd be a lot different player than I am now,'' Nowitzki said. "Nellie gave me that freedom to dribble down and shoot threes.
"I don't think any other coach would have wanted to see that 15, 16 years ago.''
-- Dwain Price
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