DALLAS – As the Dallas Mavericks move around the NBA to play road games, it’s becoming increasingly clearer and clearer every game that there’s an inordinate amount of interest from fans and reporters in rookie forward Luka Doncic.
Fans desperately want autographs and selfies, while those intrepid reporters want that insightful interview. There was even a TV crew from Slovenia — that’s where Doncic hails from –at the Mavs-Lakers game in Los Angeles this past Wednesday.
But Luka-mania hasn’t been a surprise to the Mavs, who acquired Doncic’s draft rights in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks on the day of the NBA Draft this past June. And the 19-year old kid from Slovenia hasn’t disappointed as Doncic leads the Mavs in scoring – and flair for the dramatics — with 19.6 points per game.
“We thought he was really good and we’re certainly not shocked that he’s playing well,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “To me the thing about him that doesn’t come out in film of the games in Europe and other international places is his strength and quickness for a young kid.
“For 19 (years) and 7 or 8 months (old) he’s got a really unusual combination of size, speed and deceptive quickness. He’s having to adapt his game to the NBA and there are certainly challenges to doing that, but he’s on a good track.”
Doncic had no preconceived notions about how his game in Europe – he played for Real Madrid in the EuroLeague – would translate to the NBA.
“I just expected that I would play my game,” Doncic said. “I know how I can play, but it’s a different game.”
It’s a “different game” that Doncic is quickly adapting to.
“We’re playing him at multiple positions,” Carlisle said. “Defensively, he’s better than what people said he was coming from Europe.”
At times, Doncic held his own while defending Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James this past Wednesday. That had to be challenging, especially since Doncic grew up idolizing James.
“I think he’s great,” center DeAndre Jordan said. “Luka’s an amazing player.”
An “amazing player” who the Mavs know will get much better with time.
“I’ve been here for eight games,” Doncic said. “So I have a lot of learning to do.”
NOTES: The Mavs (2-6) host the New York Knicks (2-6) Friday at 7:30 p.m. CT at American Airlines Center. The game will be televised on FSSW and can be heard on ESPN 103.3 FM. The game also can be heard on Univision 1270 AM (Spanish). . .This is the opener of a two-game home stand for the Mavs, who also host the Washington Wizards on Tuesday. . .The Mavs have lost five straight games and enter Friday’s contest following a pair of heartbreaking defeats on the road. The Mavs lost in San Antonio this past Monday, 113-108, in overtime, and also lost at the Los Angeles Lakers this past Wednesday, 114-113. . .The Knicks have dropped six of their last seven games. That includes Wednesday’s 107-101 loss to the Indiana Pacers, despite 37 points from Tim Hardaway Jr. . .The Mavs are 2-1 at home this season, while the Knicks are 0-3 on the road.