None of the NBA’s Texas teams made the playoffs this season, let alone still being alive in the conference finals that start Tuesday.
Seems like only yesterday that the Mavericks were blowing out Phoenix in Game 7 in the desert and getting ready for the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.
In reality, it was one year ago today. On May 15, 2022, a small, but lively group of Mavericks’ fans celebrated in a corner of the Phoenix arena as Luka Dončić had as many points in the first half, 27, as all of the Suns put together.
It was a heck of a party.
This year, things have changed, as they always do. The Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets will meet for a spot in the NBA finals.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of local ties still alive in the playoffs. There’s a lot of connections to the Mavericks, the Metroplex and the state of Texas.
The Boston Celtics alone have about half of their playing rotation firmly rooted in Texas.
When they open the East finals against the Miami Heat, the Celtics will have Marcus Smart as their key defensive stopper against the Heat’s red-hot Jimmy Butler.
Smart is a product of Flower Mound’s Marcus High School and he has spent his entire career with the Celtics. He’s been a major part of their deep playoff runs the last few seasons.
He’s averaged 15.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game in the playoffs this season. And he’s always relied on to guard one of the opponent’s best players.
Also, the Celtics rely heavily on center Robert Williams, who spent two seasons at Texas A&M before being taken by the Celtics 27th overall in the 2018 draft.
The man that Williams often backs up, Al Horford, also has Texas ties. The veteran center is the son of Tito Horford, who was a high school prodigy in Houston in the ‘80s and the subject of a bitter recruiting battle, eventually attending Miami-Florida after being ruled ineligible at the University of Houston and being kicked out of LSU.
Celtics backup big man Luke Kornet was born in Lantana and attended Liberty Christian High School in Argyle. They also have former San Antonio draftee Derrick White and Mike Muscala, a former second round draft pick of the Mavericks in 2013 before he was traded with Jared Cunningham to Atlanta for Shane Larkin in a draft night trade.
And for both of you Spurs’ fans reading this, Lonnie Walker was a former first round pick for San Antonio and spent his first four seasons with the Spurs.
The Miami Heat aren’t void of a Texas link, either.
Jimmy Butler was born in Houston and went to Tomball High School before playing at Marquette with Jae Crowder.
And Miami’s Kyle Lowry and Victor Oladipo were former Houston Rockets, as were Denver’s Jeff Green and Ish Smith and the Lakers’ Dennis Schroder .
As for the Lakers and Nuggets, they are relatively light on Texas connections.
Denver backup center DeAndre Jordan was born in Houston, attended Texas A&M and spent part of the 2018-19 season with the Mavericks.
Vlatko Cancar is a teammate of Luka Doncic on the Slovenian National team.
With the Lakers, Jarred Vanderbilt was born and raised in Houston and Mo Bamba played at Texas.
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