“Soprano the rock, handle like Van Exel” â€“ Jay-Z
There was a reason why Hova would name drop Nick Van Exel’s name in a verse. Nick the Quick was everything you wanted out of a small guard: a smooth south paw stroke, crafty dribble moves, great court vision and money in the clutch. And best of all, everything he did, he did it with style.
Van Exel had swagger, played with flash and loved to talk trash on the court. You either loved him or hated him. Like Tim Hardaway and Isiah Thomas, he could fill out highlight tapes without going above the rim.
A second round pick out of Cincinnati in 1993, it wasn’t long until Van Exel was a starting guard in the NBA. In his first five seasons with the Lakers, Van Exel and Eddie Jones brought back “Showtime” to the L.A. by forming one of the most exciting young backcourts in the NBA at the time. Van Exel was also on the Lakers during the early part of the Shaq and Kobe era. He made the All-Star team in 1998.
After being shipped off to Denver in 1998, Nick continued to open eyes. He had his best statistical year (17.7 ppg and 8.5 apg) during the 2000-01 season. Denver traded Nick midway during the ’01-02 season to Dallas, where he and Steve Nash formed one of the best point guard combinations in the league. Van Exel also made stops in Golden State, Portland and finally San Antonio before retiring in 2006.
Contrary to his on-court persona, Nick the Quick has been relatively quiet since hanging up his sneakers. This year he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in both his high school (St. Joseph High School in Wisconsin) and his junior college (Henderson County Junior College in Texas). A few weeks ago, he landed a FT gig as an assistant coach at Texas Southern University.
“I said I was going to retire in ’06, take two years off and try to get into coaching,” Van Exel told KRIV-TV in Houston. “It didn’t work out as planned. So here I am my fourth year retired, couldn’t sit around in the winter this time. Coach (Tony) Harvey brought me on the staff. It’s going to be something exciting.”
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