View Full Version : Warriors' St. Nick comes through for kids

Max Power
12-30-2003, 09:54 AM
Friday, December 26, 2003 - 6:24:29 AM PST

SAN LEANDRO -- On the day before Christmas all the children were staring, oh the gifts he'd be bearing, for this season of sharing.

They sat left to right, eyes wide with delight, praying St. Nick would make the day bright.

Here he comes now, carrying goodies in hand, but who would have guessed that HE'D be the man?

Some say he's a punk, a guy hard to love, but to these kids here he was sent from above.

Barely 15 hours after delivering the Warriors to victory over the imposing Los Angeles Lakers, Nick Van Exel walked into Faith Fellowship Foursquare Church and delivered Christmas to more than two dozen East Bay kids.

Kids who otherwise would not have had much of a holiday.

Santa cap perched on his head and a sack full of gifts over his shoulder, Nick was no less than "Excellent" in the role of Santa Claus.

With his trusty elf, Thunder, to his right, Van Exel called out names and handed out gifts, exchanging smiles with the children as his flock shrieked with joy.

These are the kids Van Exel has "adopted," after informing the Warriors of his plans to do so. There were 25, unless I counted someone more than once as they tore open gifts and dashed about the room.

Some don't see their parents.

Some don't know their parents.

Oakland police officer Margaret Dixon, legendary for her community service work, brought a group of 10 youngsters to the church.

"Some of them are being raised by great-grandparents," Dixon said. "Two of them in there, their great-grandmother is 85 and raising them."

There were dolls. PlayStation2s. Remote-control vehicles. Games. And more.

Insofar as every gift Van Exel gave was purchased with his money, he was Dad and Mom and Santa Claus, all rolled into one.

This is how Nick warms hearts, including his own.

"It's easy, man, in the position that I'm in, to try and help out," he said. "To try to give some type of hope and encouragement. That's what it's about for me. I get a lot of gratification from seeing these kids smile, from seeing them so happy."

While there is no doubt Van Exel can afford to help the disadvantaged, many in his position -- young millionaire athletes, entertainers and business executives -- simply choose not to do so.

Why should they? They have garages to fill. Cars to buy. And speakers and DVDs and TVs for the cars. They have clothes to buy. And shoes. And jewelry. Lots of fine jewelry.

For so many wealthy adults, life is about accumulating toys.

For these kids, one toy can be a reason to celebrate life.

"I know it can be tough," Van Exel said. "Especially, because as kids we've always wanted things. We've always wanted the big remote-control car. Or the race track. And a lot of us couldn't get what we wanted. So what we try to do is help'em out."

Some of the youngsters, like Reginald Crawford, have a mother who refuses to compromise for her son.

As Reggie played with the other kids, Kay Crawford sat off in a corner, a beatific smile on her face and her son's gifts in her lap. She found employment, mostly as an accountant and sometimes as a substitute teacher, until she dedicated herself to another job.

Teaching Reggie.

"Where I live in Oakland, there are two middle schools -- and neither one is an option," she said. "So I decided, once he left the elementary-school level, to home-school."

The problem with that is evident. She does not draw a salary.

Reggie, 12, is gregarious and articulate. He likes sports so much and listens to it with such regularity that his mother has gotten into the habit of turning off his radio at night.

"I'm just grateful," she said, her eyes growing moist as she scanned the room, "that they adopted us as family."

By meeting Reggie, Van Exel made two friends.

By giving Reggie a PlayStation2, Van Exel gave Reggie a Christmas.

By giving Reggie a Christmas, it's conceivable Van Exel has two friends for life.

"As a kid, I never looked forward to meeting (celebrities)," Van Exel said. "Where I grew up (Kenosha, Wis.), there wasn't any of that. I was in a small community. We had no celebrities. These kids have the Raiders. They have the A's. They have us. I think it's a thrill for them, and I'm just glad to be a part of that thrill."

Van Exel, 32, is a different kind of cat. He projects attitude, a world-weary toughness that seems to have settled into his soul. This is partially the result of being the only child of a single mother who spent 28 years working the assembly line for Chrysler.

Reports here and there portray Nick as troublemaker, a guy with his own agenda.

There has been no sign of that since coming to the Warriors, his fourth team in an 11-year career. Van Exel is the unquestioned spiritual leader of the Warriors (13-13), who have not been at .500 or higher this late in the season since they were 14-12 a decade ago.

Moreover, Nick has been God's gift to the community. He is doing in the East Bay what he has done wherever his NBA travels have taken him, sharing himself with young people and making friends with families.

As he was sitting for this interview, one of the youngsters, about 4 years old, ran over and, like kids will do, interrupted.

"Nice game," he fairly shouted.

"Give me a hug, man," Van Exel said.

"Nice game," the boy said once again, while hugging Van Exel. "I watched you last night."

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Van Exel said. "Thank you, buddy."

And with that, the boy darted from Nick's embrace and chased a playmate across the floor.

Van Exel smiled, nodded and returned to the conversation.

"Coming from where I've come from, to be in this position now, able to help these kids, it's just a great feeling," he said.

On Thanksgiving, Van Exel bought and personally delivered turkeys.

On Christmas Eve, he was, to any of the kids in attendance at Faith Fellowship, no mere basketball star but a kind and giving soul who deserved to be called St. Nick.

12-30-2003, 10:35 AM
Man. This guy is really missed on and off the court. Do you think some of that "goodness" was a result of his stay here?

12-30-2003, 01:35 PM
Just validates my fandom of NVE. I loved the guy here and wish him nothing but the best. The guy is a champion at life.

12-30-2003, 03:15 PM
NVE isn't missed much at all.
He's an overrated player... a very questionable human being

glad you're gone NVE

12-30-2003, 04:01 PM
I think NVE reputation as a thug boils down to two mistakes early in his career.

Bumps a ref
1-2-3 Cancun

I also believe the AJ has helped him mature. He has done the right things since going to GS.

It will be really interesting to see where he ends up next year. Clearly he is a very good point guard, but with his age and reputation (deserved or not) I don't see him getting more than the MLE.

12-30-2003, 04:52 PM
I'll never confuse NVE with a mature person

12-30-2003, 05:42 PM
elephants never forget
Murph never forgives.....

12-30-2003, 06:22 PM
The fact that Murph dislikes him makes me like him even more. i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif

12-30-2003, 06:36 PM
Don't let him fool you...........

Murph wears NVE underpants and has all of NVE's collector cards.

12-30-2003, 08:13 PM

12-31-2003, 12:23 AM
nve is a good player to have on a team for MLE(if you are a mavs team). Otherwise, we cannot have to PGs making max when NASH'S contract is done.

Max Power
12-31-2003, 01:22 AM
Can you imagine having NVE and Walker on the same team? Maybe we could trade for Juwan Howard too.

Whoops - I think murph's brain just exploded.


12-31-2003, 11:54 AM
hahahaha....good one Max!

murph- stop denying it.....I know you wear NVE underoos. Those internet pictures have come back to haunt you. i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif

12-31-2003, 08:24 PM
A great ball-player and a wonderful man. You will be missed NVE.

12-31-2003, 08:42 PM
NVE was great in sacremento series and choked in the spurs series where the defense was much better. I think ANTOINE has more than filled that void and is a better defender and a rebounder.

12-31-2003, 08:59 PM
Originally posted by: Epitome22
A great ball-player and a wonderful man. You will be missed NVE.

Epitome better start looking for rotten tomatos being thrown by a certain eagle.....i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif

01-03-2004, 06:03 AM
I didn't want to start a new thread for this, so please forgive me if I'm swaying slightly off topic here. The Warriors are on a 4-game losing streak right now, and most of the posts I've read on Warrior forums are pretty much calling for Nick's head. He's had a REALLY bad week. In the last four games he's gone 3-16, 0-5, 3-11, and 5-14.

To make matters worse, he's recently questioned the decision-making of his coach in local newspapers - apparently Nick thinks the problem is that he isn't allowed to SHOOT ENOUGH. Is this the guy we miss?

Warriors becoming road kill
Van Exel questions ineffective offense

Brad Weinstein, Chronicle Staff Writer Thursday, January 1, 2004

East Rutherford, N.J. -- When the Warriors were routed by 26 points at Orlando in their 24th game, coach Eric Musselman noted that it was the first blowout loss of the season. In fact, it was the kind of performance the team had produced only a handful of times in Musselman's 106 games on the bench.

Two weeks later, however, the Warriors have piled up three more such road stinkers, the latest an 88-70 shellacking from the Nets on Wednesday at Continental Airlines Arena. A third consecutive loss left the Warriors searching for their competitive edge -- not to mention a high-percentage shot -- and had point guard Nick Van Exel questioning an offense that he said has blunted his playmaking ability.

In beginning a five-game road trip, the Warriors (14-16) established a season low for points, <b>scored 29 in the second half</b> -- they generated 32 and 40 second-half points in their previous two games -- and shot 3-for-16 from 3-point range. The Nets (17-14) enjoyed a 28-15 advantage in the decisive third quarter, when the Warriors committed five of their 16 turnovers and took turns launching long jump shots just before the shot clock expired.
Van Exel was 0-for-3 in the third quarter and 0-for-5 for the game, going scoreless in a stint limited to 18 minutes because of what he said was stiffness in his surgically repaired left knee. Backup point guard Speedy Claxton was pressed into 30 minutes despite tendinitis in his right shoulder.

After the Warriors' fourth straight terrible outing on the road, Van Exel was asked if he could pinpoint the problem.
"Yep. But it's not going to do any good to tell you,'' he said.

Then Van Exel added, "Just keep playing the way they want me to.''

Would Van Exel tell a coach or teammate if he saw something that bothered him on the court?

"I've tried before,'' he said, "so the only thing I can do is go out there and pass the ball around like they want me to.''
Asked if he has not been as aggressive as he would like to be during a season in which he is averaging 13.3 points and 5.6 assists and shooting 41 percent from the field, Van Exel responded: "(Shoot), you watch the games. I'm just out there passing and cutting.''

Van Exel has been selective in deciding when to assert himself offensively, often waiting until the fourth quarter to dominate the action. He said that is a result of how the offense is structured.

"It's like an open offense. Everybody touches the ball,'' he said of an approach that helped the Warriors finish second in the league in scoring last season. "The offense is not just for a player to make plays, which is what I like to do. So I do have to pick my spots. And if it's not going well, I try to be aggressive. But throughout the game, I'm doing what the coach asks, and that's pass and cut, pass and cut.

"I wish I could be more controlling of the ball, I wish I could be more of a playmaker, I wish I could help the team the way I can help. I'm just trying to do what he wants me to do right now. That's all I can really say about that. Pass and cut, pass and cut, that's what I'm going to do.''

Musselman could not be reached for comment after Van Exel voiced his concerns. Earlier, the coach had no comment on the subject of why the Warriors suddenly are being pounded with regularity away from the Arena in Oakland. In their past four road games, the Warriors have been outscored by an average of 103.5-83.8.
"It's baffling,'' small forward Mike Dunleavy said. "We have guys who have won in this league for many years. We have guys who have won at levels below this. I think for the most part everybody on this team is pretty competitive. We don't have any guys who just roll over and die.

"That's why it's really strange that this is happening. ... This isn't like a bunch of screw-arounds who don't take things seriously. The two biggest things are we are talented and we get along. We get along on the court and off the court. This team gets along way better than the team last year. I'm not really sure what is going on.''