Mavericks, NBA D-league Legends will help youths in Mexico

Posted Saturday, Nov. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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As a kid growing up in Chihuahua, Mexico, Eduardo Najera always had dreams about opportunities.

Those dreams came to fruition in 2000 when Najera became the first Mexican-born player drafted in the NBA. Nowadays, Najera is trying to pay it forward as he has become part of a joint effort by the Dallas Mavericks, Texas Legends and Chihuahua to help youths back in his home country.

“I’m very excited about this opportunity,” said Najera, who played 13 NBA seasons and is now the head coach and general manager of the Texas Legends. “It’s been one of my dreams to build that bridge.

“Of course I watched the NBA when I was a kid and now I’m very excited that kids get to experience it and get to come to the beautiful city of Dallas, and get to experience and watch the best basketball in the world. I think that by bringing young boys and girls out of Chihuahua and bringing them up here, it’s going to be an inspiration, and it’s going to be a motivation for many of them.”

Donnie Nelson, the president of basketball operations for the Mavericks and owner of the Legends, applauds Najera for reaching out and giving back to his community.

“He grew up in the state of Chihuahua and did it the old fashion way,” Nelson said. “He forged a bridge of opportunity back when he was playing.

“I can’t think of a better example — not only to the kids of North Texas, but also Chihuahua — in terms of not only playing with your heart and head and passion, but he also stands up for the most important things.”

Spanish connection

Jose Calderon had a nice visit with Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol before Saturday’s game.

Calderon and Gasol are good friends and play ball together for the Spanish national team, and the two had some catching up to do.

“It’s always fun — he’s my friend,” Calderon said. “It’s almost like a Spanish game with Dallas.

“He’s a great guy, a great friend. We’ve been together for awhile — like a long time — and it’s nice to see him and the way he’s improved. Nobody was expecting for him to be this good — an All-Star caliber player.”

Calderon will get to visit the other Gasol brother on Tuesday when the Mavs host Pau and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Asked who is the better of the two Gasol brothers, Calderon said: “I think they’re different players. Marc is maybe more of a [center], and Pau maybe is more of a [power forward].

“They both were All-Stars, and [Pau] Gasol has a couple of [NBA championship] rings. I think Marc has more years left, so we’ll see what happens.”

Difference maker

Whenever Brandan Wright returns from the fractured left shoulder injury he suffered during an Oct. 8 practice, the Mavs expect to get better scoring and defense at the center position.

Unlike starting center Samuel Dalembert, Wright is more athletic, a better shot-blocker and runs the court better.

“Brandan makes a huge difference,” owner Mark Cuban said. “Sam is more of a jump shooter and a finisher, whereas Brandan is more of a slasher to the basket and can finish from 5-to-10 feet.

“They’re different players. I think you can put those two out there together and Brandan will make a big difference for us, so we’re hoping he gets back sooner rather than later.”

The Mavs still list Wright as being out indefinitely, with coach Rick Carlisle giving updates every Friday.

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @dwainprice

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