DALLAS – Now comes the waiting game for Dallas Mavericks forward Luka Doncic.
Tuesday is the deadline for NBA coaches to turn in their ballots with the names of the seven players they’ve chosen to be the reserves in next month’s All-Star game. The 15 Western Conference coaches will vote for the seven West reserves, and the 15 Eastern Conference coaches will vote for the seven East reserves.
The winners will be announced live on TNT on Thursday night and no coach can vote for his own player. The All-Star game will be played Feb. 17 in Charlotte.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is very receptive to the fact that his coaching brethren will do the right thing and pick the players who deserve to be in the midseason classic.
“I feel that the coaches generally come from a very pure viewpoint with it,” Carlisle said following Monday’s practice at the Lympo practice facilities. “But at the end of the day, it’s a number’s game.
“It’s 12 spots (counting the starters) in the West. Everybody that’s deserving is not going to be on it. That’s just a fact.”
The Mavs are holding out hope that Doncic will make the final cut and become the franchise’s first rookie named to the All-Star team. Certainly, Doncic has put up some terrific numbers to make his case.
The 6-7, 218-pounder leads the Mavs in scoring with 20.5 points per game, and also averages 6.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.15 steals. In addition, Doncic was the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for the months of November and December, which is a harbinger for bigger things down the road such as All-Star berths and perhaps winner of the prestigious Rookie of the Year award.
“I think Luka’s had a great year so far as far as production, and especially for a guy that’s so young and a rookie,” center Dwight Powell said. “We know he’s played professionally already (in Europe), but at the end of the day this is his first year in this league, this is the best league in the world, so he’s proven that he is a special talent and deserving of a lot of the praise he’s already received.
“As far as the All-Star list, whatever happens, happens. I think he’s happy to be in that conversation right now and is willing to continue to put forth the effort and work and try to help this team and this city become great again regardless of whether or not he’s voted in.”
Doncic was second in Western Conference fan voting behind only LeBron James. But when voting by the players and media were added to the equation, and those were revealed last Thursday, Doncic unfortunately was not one of the five players named to the Western Conference starting lineup.
In the Mavs’ two games since the announcement that obviously stunned him and Mavs Nation, Doncic had 32 points, eight rebounds and eight assists last Friday against the Detroit Pistons. Then he became the youngest NBA player with multiple triple-doubles when he collected 35 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists this past Sunday against the Toronto Raptors.
Was this Doncic’s subtle way of letting the players and media know that they got it all wrong in his bid to become the first Mavs to start in an All-Star game since Dirk Nowitzki in 2010? Or, was it his way to try and influence the coaches to vote him in as a reserve?
Either way, Carlisle said it’s possible for coaches to be influenced by what happens in the final days leading up to when their ballots are due.
“I usually wait until the last second (to turn in the ballot), because things can happen, so I’ll send mine in tomorrow,” Carlisle said. “I know there are a lot of coaches that are very impressed with how (Doncic) played, but we’ll see.
“As I said the other night, I don’t know if it’s ever been tougher in the West. The number of great players is staggering, but he’s doing good things and he’s just got to continue to work.”
Several coaches have expressed how impressed they’ve been in watching Doncic play live and on film. The latest is Raptors coach Nick Nurse, who used the adjective “incredible” when describing Doncic.
“One thing I didn’t talk about pre-game that impressed me, I can’t believe his handles,” Nurse said on Sunday. “He’s up there getting heat and he’s just ‘vroom, vroom, vroom’, really hard dribbles back and forth and getting space even when our guys were kind of attacking him, and he would never get back on his heels.
“We couldn’t get him out of rhythm because he was low and strong and crossing over. Then, with a burst he was into the paint. What incredible touch.”
Doncic was 14-of-24 from the field against the Raptors, and most of his assist were at the rim and led to alley-oop dunks. Also, Nurse said:
“Some of those floaters he shot were almost free throw line or a step inside, and it seemed like he made every single one of them. And when we did get enough help there, he’d hang in the air until the last second and throw that incredible two-handed pass out to the right corner. He’s something else.”
Indeed, Doncic’s jump-passes from one side of the court clear across to the other side have been very impactful.
“He has great vision,” Carlisle said. “His size allows him to elevate and see things a little better than guys that are smaller, and he’s got experience.
“He’s got a lot of experience as a playmaker in Europe and he’s gained a lot of experience here in 50 games, or whatever its been.”
Doncic has produced two triple-doubles in the past four games, including the 18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists he accumulated against Milwaukee on Jan. 21. It’s the first time a member of the Mavs have had multiple triple-doubles in the same season since Jason Kidd had two triple-doubles during the 2010-’11 season.
In addition, Sunday’s triple-double means Michael Jordan, Stephen Curry, Kidd and Doncic are the only players in the last 35 years to put together a triple-double that involved that player scoring at least 35 points. All of this is exceptional news for the Mavs, who acquired Doncic in a draft day trade with the Atlanta Hawks last summer after he was the third overall draft pick.
“He came from a situation that may be a little bit unique for a rookie, as far as being a highly-touted professional player at an extremely high level,” Powell said. “So we had some high hopes and expectations from him coming in.
“And in the summer and in the early parts of training camp we saw what we expected, and as the season progressed I think we were impressed in his ability to maintain that high level of competition and production over the course of the first 50 games, because a lot of rookies hit that wall.”
In becoming the first teenager in NBA history to record multiple triple-doubles, Doncic, 19 has busted through whatever perceived wall there is in regards to how to slow down a rookie of his stature. So far, he has produced 13 games with 25 or more points and six games with 30 or more points while handing out more than his share of headaches.
Nothing, it seems, affects him. But now, however, he has to sweat out whether or not the Western Conference coaches believe he’s deserving of a spot on this year’s All-Star roster.
Nevertheless, Doncic has the vote of Powell and the rest of his teammates.
“There’s a lot of games, a lot of travel, it’s a high intensity league, high paced, and you are going to have to guard guys that are generally a lot quicker than you when you are a rookie” Powell said. “He’s done a good job of taking care of his body, he’s done a good job of getting with our coaching staff on how to maximize his potential, so yeah, he’s been great.
“I’m just looking forward to seeing him grow, because he’s done so much growth. We’ve seen so much growth in him already this year and that’s going to continue regardless of whatever the coaches come back with.”