PHOENIX — When he was in high school in Kinston, N. C., Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock played for Chris Paul’s AAU team. Over the years, it got to the point where Paul was considered Bullock’s mentor.
But as the Mavs and Bullock are mired in a heated battle with Paul and the Phoenix Suns with the coveted trip to the Western Conference Finals on the line, Bullock really hopes folks will refrain from referring to Paul as his mentor.
Especially with the Suns leading this best-of-seven series, 2-0, after winning Wednesday, 129-109, at Footprint Center. And especially with Paul scoring 28 points and handing out eight assists for the Suns.
“We can’t keep using this ‘mentor’ word, but he’s definitely a family friend of mine,” Bullock said. “He’s been a person in my life over the years, but like I said, he’s my enemy right now when we’re between these lines.”
Bullock said he played for Paul’s AAU team starting with his freshman year in high school and throughout his senior year.
“He can be another family friend of mine after the season is over,” Bullock said. “Right now I’ve just got to have that killer instinct and just try to make things tough for hm.
“Like I said, he’s a close family friend of mine, but it’s about me and my team right now. He can be a friend after the season.”
TOLIVER HAS THE MINDSET: The WNBA season starts this weekend. But Mavs assistant coach Kristi Toliver won’t be returning to play for the Los Angeles Sparks until the Mavs complete their run in this year’s playoffs.
Toliver said she’s all in on her job with the Mavs, and she’ll be able to transition to the Sparks when the time comes.
“I’m a person that likes to be where my feet are,” Toliver told Mavs.com. “So obviously being fully invested in this series (against Phoenix) and our progression in the playoffs, while obviously still maintaining and staying physically fit to just walk into a season, yeah, it’s challenging.
“But it’s nothing that I haven’t managed before. It’s just a mindset.”
Toliver was an assistant coach with the NBA’s Washington Wizards from 2018-’20 while she was playing for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. A three-time All-Star, Toliver won WNBA titles with the Sparks in 2016 and with the Mystics in 2019, and also is a four-time champion in the Russian National League (2015-‘18).
The third overall pick in the 2009 WNBA Draft by the Chicago Sky, Toliver additionally helped Maryland win the 2006 NCAA championship.
On her job with the Sparks, Toliver said: “Once the season starts, they start on a four-day road trip. So, depending on what happens (with the Mavs), I’ll meet (the Sparks) wherever they are.”
POPOVICH TREE: Six of the eight head coaches that remain in the NBA playoffs have a very close connection to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams played for Popovich and the Spurs from 1996-98, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr played for Popovich from 1998-2001 and again during the 2002-03 season, and Memphis Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins was an intern with the Spurs’ basketball operations during the 2007-08 season.
Also, Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka played for Popovich and the Spurs from 2007-09 and 2010-11, and was an assistant coach on Popovich’s staff from 2012-19. In addition, Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer was an assistant with Popovich and the Spurs from 1996-2013.
Popovich was the Spurs’ general manager and executive vice-president of basketball operations when Doc Rivers played for the Spurs from 1994-96. Rivers is now the coach of the Philadelphia 76ers.
The only coaches in the playoffs who are not on Popovich’s coaching or front office tree are Mavs coach Jason Kidd and Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
“Pop created opportunities for people to figure out what they want to do,” Williams said. “Whether you played or you didn’t play, that place has always been somewhat of an opportunity school, if you will. When you get there they don’t tell you what to do.
“You’re invited to join and see if you want to do it, and then look at all the options. And that’s what Pop told me. They just laid it out for them and said figure it out. He’s done that for countless people, and it’s changed a lot of lives.”
GRGURICH IS BACK: Tim Grgurich, a long-time friend of coach Jason Kidd, attended the Mavs’ shootaround on Wednesday.
Affectionately known as a basketball guru, Grgurich was an assistant coach on Rick Carlisle’s staff when Kidd and the Mavs captured the 2011 NBA title. Also, Grgurich was an assistant coach for Milwaukee from 2016-‘18 when Kidd coached the Bucks.
Kidd, in fact, said his relationship with Grgurich goes all the way back to when Kidd was in the eighth grade.
“We tried to get him to come to (the first-round playoff series against) Utah,” Kidd said. “He couldn’t make it at that time. He was able (now).
“He had some free time to come down here for this series, so he’ll be around.”
Grgurich, who turns 80 on July 10, also worked as an assistant coach for Seattle, Portland, Phoenix, Denver and Detroit. In all, he was an assistant coach with the Mavs from 2010-’17 – in time for Kidd’s final two seasons as a player for the Mavs.
BRIEFLY: After picking up 15 technical fouls – one away from an automatic one-game suspension, Mavs point guard Luka Doncic has yet to receive any technical fouls in the five playoff games he’s played in this postseason. And that’s good news for Kidd, who noticed Doncic has settled down since he was injured in the final regular game on April 10 against the San Antonio Spurs, which forced him to miss the first three games of the first-round playoff series against Utah. “I think he’s in a good place,” Kidd said. “He was in a good place when the injuries took place. He wasn’t moping or down. He did his work. And he’s been in that place ever since that injury, so we need to keep him in that place. I think that’s just growth, maturity. He’s 23 years old and I think he’s just understanding the situation, the stage and trying to help his team win. He knows that him getting a (technical foul) doesn’t help the team.”. .When asked about how loud it’s been inside Footprint Center, Bullock said: “Our fans are a lot more louder.”. .Sean Sweeney is one of the most beloved assistant coaches on Kidd’s staff who likes to keep things in order. Bullock has several favorite Sweeney stories, one which he shared during Wednesday morning’s shootaround. “Probably one of the ones that he said today,” Bullock said. “(Sweeney said) judging my defense from the last game – J minus. He said I will probably need summer school classes for that.”. .Forward Dorian Finney-Smith turned 29 on Wednesday. Also, Gar Heard, who was an assistant coach with the Mavs from 1987-93, turned 73 on Tuesday. In addition, when the Mavs fired Richie Adubato on Jan. 13, 1993, Heard became the Mavs’ interim head coach and led them to a 9-44 record during the remainder of the 1992-93 season. Heard lives in the Phoenix area.