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Najera may be gone, but he's not forgotten

Fans cheer ex-Mav, who is getting comfortable again after moving on

04:17 AM CST on Tuesday, November 9, 2004

By EDDIE SEFKO / The Dallas Morning News

NBA players want it both ways. They want their playing time. And they want to be on a winning team.

More often than not, middle-of-the-road players have to make a choice. And for Eduardo Najera, it's no choice at all.

"I'm not going to lie," he said Monday. "I think it's better to have a smaller role on a winning team. Nobody likes losing."

So far, that's all Najera has experienced as a member of the Golden State Warriors, who are 0-4 after a 101-98 overtime loss to the Mavericks on Monday at American Airlines Center. It was Najera's first visit to AAC since being traded to the Warriors in August.

The fans clearly remembered their favorite of the last four seasons. Najera got a nice standing ovation when he came into the game with 3:29 to play in the first quarter.

"They haven't forgotten about me yet," Najera said. "Of course, I miss it down here. But at the same time, I'm liking it over there. It's a fun city. I'm living in San Francisco."

Najera has started to assimilate into the Bay Area community. And he sees hope for the Warriors, who have stockpiled a load of draft picks and re-signed young talents such as Jason Richardson and Troy Murphy this summer.

"They're headed in the right direction," Najera said. "They're trying to do it the right way.

The Mavericks learned to love Najera's hustle and his grit. Last season, knee problems helped diminish his role, but not how the Mavericks feel about him.

IRWIN THOMPSON/DMN
IRWIN THOMPSON/DMN
Golden State's Derek Fisher (4) is called for the foul as the Mavericks' Jason Terry tries to get by him in overtime.

"I forgot how much I miss that guy," Nelson said. "Seeing him again is really special. He has a special place in my heart and with this team and our fans. I wish him all the best."

And Najera is comfortable moving on with the rest of his career. He never thought he'd leave Dallas. But now that he has, he holds no bitterness.

"I didn't even want to think about leaving," he said. "But now that I'm with the Warriors, I don't want to think about leaving there. I want to hopefully stay there and finish my career. The Mavericks wanted to go a different route. And they did. It's fine with me. It's not like I'm out of a job."

No message: The locker for Steve Nash remains empty in the Mavericks' locker room, but it's nothing symbolic.

The locker was going to be Avery Johnson's until he retired. Since then, nobody has claimed it.

"I'm very selective about filling it," equipment manager Al Whitley said.

E-mail esefko@dallasnews.com

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