Under the watchful eyes of proprietor Mark Cuban and director of player health and performance Casey Smith, Luka Doncic was floating soft jumpers into the net from the 3-point arc about two hours before Wednesday’s Mavericks-Celtics game.
While Cuban joked that Doncic should “rehab in the G-League,” Smith watched intently at every movement the 20-year-old superstar made on his sprained right ankle.
Doncic missed his second game because of the injury. Coach Rick Carlisle said Doncic will travel with the team on the trip to Philadelphia and Toronto, but it’s not likely that he will be able to play in either game, coach Rick Carlisle said.
“He’s doing well,” Carlisle said. “He continues to progress. He’s doing some very light shooting – no significant on-court activity yet. But he’s progressing well.
“There’s no timetable. He’s not on the trip because there’s a plan of him playing in either of the games at this point. He’s traveling so he can continue treatment, continue being with the team and hopefully increasing activity as he gets better.”
Asked if Doncic was officially ruled out for Friday in Philadelphia and Sunday in Toronto, Carlisle said: “I don’t think you can rule anything out, but I consider it highly unlikely that he would play in either game. We’ll make sure it’s the right time.”
Doncic injured the ankle early in the Miami game on Saturday. The Mavericks lost that game in overtime.
Then, in Milwaukee on Monday against a Bucks team that had won 18 consecutive games, the Mavericks led virtually the whole way and pulled off the 120-116 upset.
Doncic moved around the court before the game without a hint of discomfort. He had been in a walking boot after suffering the injury and used crutches briefly.
His healing powers at age 20 appear to be quite good.
“Obviously, he’s not limping or anything,” Cuban said.
Doncic, even with his cameo appearance against Miami, remains among the top producers in the league, averaging 29.3 points (third), 9.6 rebounds (16th) and 8.9 assists (third) per game.
After the road trip to Philly and Toronto, the Mavericks have three days off for the Christmas break before a home game against San Antonio on Dec. 26.
Adjusting on the fly: The Mavericks have had to alter their style considerably without Doncic.
Carlisle said it has to be more of a collective effort to succeed without Doncic.
“It’s a proud group and it’s a group that has grown closer as it’s gone along,” Carlisle said. “And they’re in the fight. We are playing a much more free-flowing style. We want to play with pace, momentum and a lot of ball movement. That’s the best way to get good shots and good shots will set up good defense.”
And the different style is something that the players have adjusted to quickly.
“We try to go into every game and win, but with Luka out, we have to find a different way to do it, move the ball more,” Maxi Kleber said. “You have to come into the game believing you can beat them.”