Vernon Maxwell, also known as Mad Max, is one of those players that isn't remembered for his individual accolades, but his presence and role on championship teams have made Vernon a memorable figure in NBA history. Although best known for his days with the Rockets, Maxwell actually started his career with the Spurs. However, that stint ended abruptly after a disagreement with Gregg Popovich.
If there is one franchise in the NBA that is widely known and recognized for its culture of winning and hard work, it is the San Antonio Spurs. The most successful team of the modern NBA has paved its way in the league by installing a system and culture that emphasizes teamwork and discipline. The head of that snake has been head coach Gregg Popovich, but his methods and style are simply not suited for everyone. Vernon Maxwell was one of those guys.
The 6'4'' guard, known for his defensive prowess and sweet shooting touch, thrived off being the tough guy and not shying away from anyone on the court. But he was also a bit of a hot head that didn't really present the perfect soldier -- something the system in San Antonio didn't really find fitting.
Coming out of the army, Gregg Popovich brought that same mentality to the Spurs. Even before he became the head coach and did GM work, many players thrived that way and created great teams, but for certain individuals like Maxwell, this wasn't the best way. After only a season and a half, Vernon would get traded to the Rockets, but the story of what led to that happening was hilarious.
"I couldn't do that s**t he wanted me to do. I'm from Florida. I'm new in San Antonio, and these MF'ers are trying me everywhere I go, so I'm knocking ni**as out in the streets. So Pop tells me 'No more clubs. The next time you go to a club, I gotta get you out of here.' That day, six hours later, I was at a damn bar, in a club. He called me the next day, about six in the morning: 'Hey, I need you down here.' He said, 'I told you.' They had a PI follow me. My dumb as* didn't even know. He told me, 'ok, get your s**t packed. I'm trying to find a team that wants your as*. He called me back and said 'you're going to Houston.' I said, oh s**t this MF sent me to my city.That's when I took off from there."
Vernon Maxwell, No Chill
It's crazy to hear that coach Pop was so determined and serious that he hired a PI to follow his problematic players in order to maintain the culture and disciple in the organization. It maybe didn't look pleasant at the time, but it turned out great for both sides.
Maxwell would get traded to the perfect situation in Houston, find a starting role, have the best numbers of his career, and win two championships, while the Spurs eventually became 5-time champions over the foreseeable future, with guys like Robinson, Duncan, Parker, and Manu embracing the army culture coach Popovich brought to San Antonio.