CHARLOTTE – Luka Doncic had to laugh when told that he was just one assist shy of a double-double in Friday night’s Rising Stars game, which his Word Team lost to the U.S. Team, 161-144, at the Spectrum Center.
“I had nine (assists)?,” Doncic asked, while flashing a big grin. “I didn’t know that.”
Ironically, during the Mavs’ final game before the All-Star break this past Wednesday against Miami, Doncic also contributed nine assists after leaving that game one assist shy of collecting his fourth triple-double of the season. And in the first half of Friday’s contest, Doncic went searching for assists. He wound up with four of his nine assists by halftime in a game that featured a lot of dunks, numerous flashy passes and very little – almost none – defense.
“I wasn’t trying to shoot,” Doncic said. “I was trying to pass and just have fun.”
“For me it was not about winning. I think these kinds of things are about the fans. I was just having fun out there.”
Doncic finished the game with 13 points, five rebounds, nine assists, two steals and two turnovers in 24 minutes. He also was 5-of-12 from the floor, including 3-of-9 from behind the 3-point line.
Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki was decked out in a suit while sitting on the World Team bench. Nowitzki was an honorary coach for the World Team, and gave a pre-game speech that involved reminding the players not to over-dribble.
Was that a sly but playful shot at Doncic?
“Maybe that’s why we lost,” Doncic said. “But he was just joking.”
On another matter, when Doncic found out that New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis is questionable for Sunday’s All-Star game after injuring his shoulder during Thursday night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Mavs’ rookie couldn’t help but have a natural reaction.
“That’s why I couldn’t sleep,” Doncic said.
After all, Doncic was third in the fan voting for the All-Star game behind LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. And if Davis can’t play, it may be easier to replace him with Doncic, who is already in Charlotte and who also will be competing in the Skills Challenge on Saturday night.
As far as Friday’s playground-style game went, Doncic was able to perfect one of his patented step-back 3-pointers. He also hoisted a very long 3-pointer – that missed – which was in Stephen Curry’s neighborhood.
On his ability to rack up assists, Doncic mentioned one former member of the Mavericks as a player he’s always admired when it comes to the fine art of passing the basketball.
“There’s a lot of people, but I watch a lot of Steve Nash,” Doncic said. “He’s one of my favorite players.
“(Passing the ball) makes the people happy, so it’s fun.”
Matched up against many of his peers, Doncic more than held his own. Kyle Kuzma of the Los Angeles won the Most Valuable Player award after scoring 35 points on 15-of-27 shots.
Also for the U.S. Team, Jayson Tatum scored 30 points, Trae Young had 25, Donovan Mitchell poured in 20 points, Marvin Bagley III scored 14, Johnson Collins had 12, Kevin Knox tallied 11 and Jaren Jackson Jr. added 10.
For the World Team, Ben Simmons poured in 28 points, Lauri Markkanen contributed 21 points, Deandre Ayton, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Shai Gilgeous-Alezander had 15 points apiece, Josh Okogie scored 13 points, OG Anunoby tallied 12.
Overall, Doncic noted that this was a good experience for him that he’ll never forget.
“I would say just having fun and giving the fans a show,” he said. “I was just having fun out there. Not trying to do too much.”