Tributes continue to pour in after Friday’s death of former Dallas Mavericks player Roy Tarpley.
Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers played against Tarpley while they were in the NBA.
Asked for his thoughts about Tarpley before Saturday’s game against the Mavs at the Staples Center, Rivers said: “How great he could have been.
“It’s sad, in a lot of ways, when you think about it. A basketball [tragedy] in a lot of ways.’’
While playing for the Atlanta Hawks, Rivers recalled when the Mavs took the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers to seven games in the 1988 Western Conference Finals.
“I just remember when he was healthy and straight, the Mavs were the best team in the NBA for that one little stretch with Mark Aguirre and Derek Harper,’’ Rivers said.
“And when [Tarpley] went out, they struggled, so that’s just a sad thing.’’
Tarpley, who played for the Mavs from 1986-90 and again during the 1994-95 campaign, died Friday at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital. The cause of death hasn’t been released, but he had a history of drug and alcohol problems.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, who played against Tarpley when Carlisle was playing for the Boston Celtics, remembers how multitalented Tarpley was during his career.
“Tarpley was a great young player in the league,’’ Carlisle said. “He’s one of the better players in Mavericks history.
“It’s very sad. I don’t know what the causes [of death] were, but news like that is always tragic.’’
Tarpley, 50, had the ability as a 6-foot-11 center to power defenders inside, but he also had a deft shooting touch from outside the paint.
“He was good on the inside, he was powerful,’’ Carlisle said. “Back then guys like him weren’t shooting threes.
“But he was shooting 18-foot shots very well. He was probably an early prototype of what was to come.’’
Guard Brad Davis, a Mavs teammate of Tarpley’s from 1986-90, realized that today’s youth can’t comprehend how resourceful Tarpley was as a player.
“I still think if he’d stayed healthy he could have been a top-50 player of all time,’’ Davis said. “He was agile, he could shoot the three, he could defend.
“In our [1988 first-round] playoff series when we played Houston, he did a nice job on [Hakeem] Olajuwon when they had Olajuwon and [Ralph] Sampson. It’s a shame.
“My thoughts go out to his family. It’s sad to see someone go that young.’’
Rivers praises Nowitzki
Rivers was discussing the Mavs before Saturday’s game when he came to this conclusion:
“Their bailout weapon is the best bailout weapon in NBA history in Dirk [Nowitzki],’’ Rivers said. “That’s a heck of a bailout weapon.’’
Nowitzki scored a game-high 25 points, making 10 of 19 shots, during Saturday’s 120-100 loss to the Clippers. It was the most points that the Mavs have allowed in a game this season except for the 132-129 double-overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 2.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760