INDIANAPOLIS – Since he’s had some dealings with both, a reporter asked Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle prior to Saturday’s game against the Indiana Pacers if there are any similarities between rookie Luka Doncic and the legendary Larry Bird.
“There’s are certain similarities,” Carlisle said. “Guys like that anticipate and see things coming before they happen.
“And at times that could get away from you a little bit and get a little too expeditious. But being a rookie in this league, it’s all part of it. It’s a part of that earning.’’
Carlisle was a teammate of Bird’s when the Boston Celtics captured the 1986 NBA title, and also was an assistant coach on Bird’s staff with the Pacers from 1997-’00.
Meanwhile, the Mavs coach also pointed out that Bird and Doncic play two different positions.
“Luka is a point guard,” he said. “Larry had a lot of the point guard attributes playing the small forward position, so he was one of the first real playmakers at the three position in the history of the league and did it with flair and did it with amazing vision and anticipation.”
Carlisle did say Doncic compared favorably to three other European players that made it big in the NBA.
“There’s a little (Toni) Kukoc, there’s a little of (Manu) Ginobili, there’s a little of (Drazen) Petrovic,” Carlisle said “Those guys had wide-ranging skills.
“They could all score, they could all make plays. They could all make plays at both ends of the floor. That said, Luka is very much his own man. He’s very much an original on a lot of levels. It’s been an exciting year to this point having him on board and seeing him do a lot of things that he’s done.”
Doncic is averaging a team-high 20.3 points along with averages of 6.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. But there are some areas the rookie from Slovenia must makes some improvements.
“It’s really just all areas,” Carlisle said. “Rookies are always going to be behind the curve defensively. He has made significant improvements defensively and I see him continuing to do so.
“It’s important that a guy like him understand that there’s an equal importance to defense and offense. There’s so much excitement with the things that he does offensively, but really to win in this league you’ve got to do it on both ends, and he understands that and he’s made strides.”