DALLAS – Having Dirk Nowitzki by his side at his first All-Star Weekend had to serve as a big bonus for Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Luka Doncic.
However, except for when Nowitzki was the honorary coach for the World Team in the Rising Stars game last Friday in Charlotte, Doncic was rarely by Nowitzki’s side.
“I wasn’t with him at all,” Doncic said. “We had different plans. I just saw him in the 3-point contest (on Saturday). That’s all. I didn’t see him at all.”
Besides playing in the Rising Stars game, Doncic participated on the Skills Challenge on Saturday, while Nowitzki was a part of the 3-Point Contest on Saturday and also played in the main event – the All-Star game – on Sunday.
Still, being in the same All-Star environment as Nowitzki was a beneficial experience for Doncic, who is expected to make many more of these trips throughout the upcoming years.
“It’s an honor to be asked to go and to compete in that stuff,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I’ve been involved in some All-Star Weekends. They’re phenomenally well-run, the level of visibility is ridiculous.
“I don’t think there’s anything quite like this internationally, so I’m sure it was a new and different experience (for Doncic). But I’m not a mind reader.”
This was the 14th and final All-Star game for Nowitzki, who has been there, done that over the years as far as All-Star Weekend is concerned.
“He’s been through all the stuff,” Carlisle said. “There are a lot of demands All-Star Weekend on players. There are media demands, there are appearances, there are a lot of things, and those things are extremely important to the league.
“But it’s not like you just show up and play and it’s all fun. It’s a great privilege for both of those guys and I’m sure they both feel that way. There’s a level of work involved, but it’s a real privilege to be involved in that weekend.”
That level of work apparently got to Doncic.
“I was more tired in Charlotte than in any game in the season, so it’s tough, but I like it,” said Doncic, who left Charlotte on Sunday to vacation in Cancun with his girlfriend. “For me it was just fun to be there.”
Doncic finished with 13 points, five rebounds and nine assists in the Rising Stars game, and was knocked out in the semifinal rounds of the Skills Challenge by Atlanta’s Trae Young. And he seemed to fit right in alongside the other All-Stars who crammed into the courtside seats to watch the All-Star Saturday events.
“When we were watching the 3-point contest, the slam dunk, there were a lot of great players just in the front,” Doncic said. “And all the movie stars, all the rappers — it was kind of a great experience.”
What wasn’t a great experience for Doncic was the Name That Tune game which he and Nowitzki played in that was shown on the Jumbotron during a timeout at Sunday’s All-Star game. The fans got a big kick out of it, because Nowitzki named every tune and Doncic didn’t get any of the songs right.
“They put all the 90’s songs in there,” Doncic said, while laughing. “I wasn’t born yet.”
Actually, Doncic was born in 1999, but he was no match for Nowitzki in the Name That Tune game. However, the 19-year old phenom has more than proven that be belongs in the NBA as he’s averaging 20.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists this season after being the third overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft.
“I know a lot of people didn’t think that I could play that good, that I wouldn’t be able to play in the NBA,” Doncic said. “But I knew my game and I knew that I could play.
“Obviously, I didn’t know I was going to play that good, for sure. But I knew I could play here.”
And the whole world saw what he could do in the events on Friday and Saturday. Next up for Doncic is the main event – the All-Star game itself.