MEXICO CITY — Communication is critical in any relationship and it’s no different for Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.
They are the Mavericks’ two best players and it helps everybody in the organization when they are on the same page and working in unison on and off the court.
And they normally have a secret weapon that they can use when talking to each other.
They speak in Spanish, sometimes.
They both know several languages fluently and it helps them sometimes when they can communicate in an alternative form.
“Both,” Porzingis said when asked if he and Doncic talk in English or Spanish. “Sometimes, when we don’t want somebody to find out what we’re saying, then it’s Spanish. But most of the time, I’d say it’s English.”
Asked about who they’d be concerned about overhearing their English conversations, Porzingis said: “The opposite team. Sometimes the coach.”
That sits just fine with Rick Carlisle, by the way.
“They can talk and I wouldn’t know what they’re saying,” Carlisle said. “That would be great.”
Of course, in a game like Thursday against Detroit, nearly 20,000 people in the gym will be able to understand what Doncic and Porzingis are saying, if they’re in earshot.
The Mavericks and Pistons will meet in Mexico City and while the game comes with built-in challenges like the 7,300-plus foot altitude, it’s also a nice feather in any team’s cap to be part of the NBA’s history in Mexico.
This will be the 29th game the league has played in Mexico and on Saturday, San Antonio and Phoenix will make it 30.
“I think it’s great that we do this,” said J.J. Barea, another Maverick who is popular south of the border in part because of his Spanish-speaking ability. “I’ve been there a bunch of times with the Puerto Rico national team and with the NBA and every time we go, it’s a great time.
“The people are great. The fans love basketball, love the NBA. So I think it’s important we go down there and do a good job. It’s a quick trip.”
Indeed, Mexico City is closer to Dallas than Salt Lake City or anywhere on the West Coast or East Coast.
The NBA has flirted with the idea of putting a franchise in Mexico for decades, starting when David Stern was commissioner. It’s been an occasional topic, and remains perhaps the most viable option for international expansion. The league has a franchise in Toronto and had a team in Vancouver until it failed and moved to Memphis.
Earlier this week, the league opened its first NBA store in Mexico City. The game will never surpass soccer, but it does have a large following in the country. This will be the fourth consecutive year that the league has played two regular-season games in Mexico City.
“It’s a possibility, for sure,” Carlisle said of the idea of putting a team in Mexico. “It’s not as far as you might think. It’s a two-hour flight for us. There are a few other teams that are closer. It’s something that certainly could be doable.
“I don’t know where the league is on all that stuff. But they have a great building and they certainly have a fan base that would have great interest in it. The love of the NBA game that the people in Mexico City have. It’s heartwarming.”
For the record, this will be Porzingis’ first trip to Mexico. He never went there with the Latvian national team and he’s never gone their for recreation, even though it’s a popular destination for NBA players during All-Star weekend. Doncic went there after his all-star obligations last season.
But players like Porzingis are popular in Mexico for their Spanish speaking and the fact that they embrace cosmopolitan cities.
“A lot of times people find out I speak Spanish when I listen to Spanish music, Latin rap or whatever,” Porzingis said. “I definitely feel the love.
“Hopefully we have some time to see the city. I’d like to see something while I’m there. I’m excited about the trip.”
While the Mavericks and Pistons will have the same playing conditions, both will be taxed when it comes to the thin air – plus the air quality. The pollution in Mexico City is legendary.
But it’s the altitude that is a bigger concern.
“You have to go in knowing it’s a factor on some level,” Carlisle said. “Unless you go in two weeks early, you really can’t acclimate completely to it. You just can’t. It’s a scientific fact. We played there three years ago (against Phoenix) and we had a very good experience in Mexico City and with the game. We’ll have to sub a little quicker, rotate guys in probably on slightly shorter stints.”
Wright iffy: Carlisle said that guard Delon Wright is doing well with his recovery from a strained right adductor muscle, but would be doubtful for playing Thursday against the Pistons.
“Delon Wright is coming along, doing a little better at this point,” he said. “He’ll probably be listed as questionable at best for Thursday, probably doubtful. But he is doing better.”