HOUSTON – Luka Doncic will miss at least the next six games, coach Rick Carlisle said before Friday’s game against the Rockets, but the outlook remains good for him to be able to fulfill his All-Star Weekend obligations.
Doncic suffered a sprained right ankle in Thursday’s practice. That diagnosis was confirmed Friday when he received an MRI exam.
Carlisle said it’s a slightly different injury to his right ankle than the one that kept Doncic out four games in December. Those four games came over a nine-day span.
The NBA schedule-maker did the Mavericks no favors with the timing of this injury. These next six games are squeezed into nine days.
“It’s unlucky,” Carlisle said. “But it’s the NBA schedule. And this is just how it is. We got to find ways to make it into a positive somehow. It’s not easy because of the kind of player he is.
“My personal feeling – not based on anything medical, not based on anything doctors or trainers are telling me – I believe he’s going to be OK by the time the All-Star Weekend rolls around. It’s just my feeling that he’ll be able to participate at some level on those events.
“That’s something that’s important to us as a franchise, and important to him. But the No. 1 thing that’s most important is that he get healthy.”
Doncic is averaging 28.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game.
The 6-7 point guard is scheduled to play in both the All-Star Game as a starter and in the Rising Stars Game, to which he was named on Friday.
Carlisle said he and his staff will patch together lineups that they believe make the most sense against whatever opponent they got against on a given night.
“(His absence) will take us through the back-to-back next week, which is Washington and Charlotte (ending on Feb. 8),” Carlisle said. “We’ll have an update perhaps on Saturday, which will be the game in Charlotte. But beyond that, there’s not much I can say about the timetable because one day in, it’s really hard to know exactly what the timetable is going to be.
“Once it gets to be two or three or four days, it becomes a little clearer. So, it’s obvious it’s a huge loss to a great player. We’ll go game-to-game as far as lineups and try to get the best possible situation to win.”
Injuries are a fact of life in any sport and the Mavericks aren’t the only team dealing with them these days. The Rockets were without center Clint Capela (13.9 points, 13.8 rebounds) against the Mavericks on Friday.
The Mavericks went 2-2 without Doncic in December, but the two wins were impressive – at Phladelphia and at Milwaukee.
So there’s no reason to think that not having Doncic means sending up the white flag. The Rockets didn’t have Capela, James Harden or Russell Westbrook earlier this week in Utah and came away with a win.
The NBA landscape is littered with teams that have overcome the loss of star players.
“Ali did that rope-a-dope, right?” Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Let you bang a while and then you’re just like, OK, I’m done. It’s human nature. These are all professional players and they can play. Eric Gordon can get 50 on you (in their win at Utah). It just happens.
“The schedule is hard. It’s grueling. And once you walk on that court and you’re not emotionally ready to play, you can’t turn the switch and get it back that night. It just happens. Every coach in the world tries to guard against it. But as a player, I’ve done it. It’s probably the result of 82 games, long schedule – (you think) it’s just one game. We’ll be OK. They can’t beat us. There’s no way.”
But, as they say, that’s why they play the games. And the Mavericks will have at least six of them to deal with while Doncic recovers.