Practice Report: Luka Doncic
Mavs G/F Luka Doncic dishes on summer league, acclimating to Dallas and more.
DALLAS – Because his letter of clearance that needs to be signed – releasing him from his European contract with Real Madrid – hasn’t been finalized, rookie Luka Doncic hasn’t been able to practice with the Dallas Mavericks’ summer league teammates just yet.
That rubber stamp agreement, however, is just a minor setback for the 6-7 guard from Slovenia.
In essence, the Mavs already know Doncic’s skill set. They know he was the Most Valuable Player in the EuroLeague this past regular season and in the Final 4 when he led Real Madrid to the championship.
The Mavs can literally pop in a DVD and watch tons of film of Doncic blowing by defenders, attacking the basket, dishing out assists and drilling jumpers. But there was this certain adrenaline rush on Tuesday when Doncic was at the Mavs’ practice facilities, albeit he was limited to just shooting jumpers and working on the stationary bicycle until that all-important paperwork is signed, sealed and delivered.
“I think it’s great having him around,” said Jamahl Mosley, who is the Mavs’ summer league coach. “With him it’s a TBD – to be determined.
“We’ve got some things that’s got to be cleared up for him outside of us. But it’s great to just have him here and watching him shoot and go do his own thing.”
Besides spending time hunting for an apartment in Dallas, Doncic knows the basketball landscape in the NBA is much different than it is in Europe. He also knows if he can dominate the game in Europe as a 19-year old, it’s going to be a challenge to see if he can duplicate that in the NBA.
“It’s a different game,” said Doncic, in reference to the NBA. “The game is quicker, the court is open, so I think it’s going to be better here.
“I always say you can improve everything. Everything you can improve, but especially my shot. That’s the first thing I want to improve.”
Doncic is chomping at the bit in anticipation of playing alongside second-year point guard Dennis Smith Jr. The two got some shots up together on Sunday – Doncic was at the Mavs’ practice facilities for just an hour – after Doncic flew to Dallas from Europe, and their relationship appears on the verge of blossoming.
“He’s a great guy, he’s a great player,” said Doncic, who hopes to be able to practice on Wednesday. “I’m really looking forward to playing with him.”
A natural ballhandler, Doncic can envision a scenario where he and Smith flip-flops between playing off the ball and running the offense with no problems.
“I think we’re going to share the ball good,” Doncic said, “and I think we’re going to play really good together.”
More than anything for Doncic, making the necessary adjustments to the NBA is paramount to his success. And both he and the Mavs have no doubt that because of his uncanny ability to play four positions, it will happen.
“With him this is new, but basketball, you’ve seen his body of work and what he’s done,” Mosley said. “I think a lot of that is new because it’s a new environment, but for the most part I don’t believe it’s new from any other standpoint.
“We’re going to get with him watching film, and he’s done some things with Dennis already from a shooting together standpoint. So I think he’s really grasping that.”
What Mavs Nation is anxiously awaiting to see is how well Doncic and Smith play together in a game. But that may not happen until the fall.
The Mavs open the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League 2018 Friday at 8:30 p.m. CT against the Phoenix Suns at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. Smith said he’s not scheduled to play in every game in Vegas, and Doncic acknowledged that management told him he may play in just one game.
“It’s their decision,’ Doncic said. “They said I need some rest.
“It’s not my decision, so they’ll make the decision. I’m just really happy to be here.”
And the Mavs are really happy to have Doncic on board.
On the night of the NBA Draft on June 21, the Mavs traded the draft rights of Trae Young and a protected 2019 first-round pick to Atlanta for the draft rights of Doncic, who the Hawks selected with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. Doncic’s body of work on the pro level in Europe was a game-changer for the Mavs, who felt he was the best player in the draft.
Plus, the fact that Doncic has been playing against older players since he was 14 and leading Real Madrid with great success since the age of 16 was a huge deal-breaker for the Mavs.
“I think it just gives him more experience the more games you play,” Mosley said. “The more guys you play that are more experienced you’ll learn from. You tend to pick up things, you tend to figure out different ways to score, you figure out different ways to read defenses.
“And he has that knack for the game already and it’s just going to continue to grow as we work with him, as he works with the system, as coach (Rick Carlisle) gets him and helps him understand the little nuances of the game.”
From the Mavs’ perspective, the fact that Doncic comes to the NBA after being a dominant player in the second-best league in the world is intriguing. His superb resume, the Mavs believe, stacks up very well in this year’s rookie class.
“I think it speaks for itself,” Mosley said. “I think he’s just going to continue to grow, I think he’s going to continue to get better and I think this whole thing is going to be a process for him because it is new because it’s a new environment.
“But I think he’s going to continue to thrive and work towards being great in whatever environment he’s in.”