LAS VEGAS — Talking as if the weight of the world has been lifted off his shoulders, Luka Doncic officially signed his contract with the Dallas Mavericks.
The signing happened late Monday afternoon shortly after the Mavs arrived at the Thomas & Mack Center, where they defeated the Golden State Warriors, 91-71, in the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League 2018.
“It’s been a long time,” a relieved Doncic told Mavs.com. “I’m so excited. I know I can just play, so that’s what I want to do, just play.”
Doncic came to Las Vegas with the Mavs last Thursday in hopes that his contract situation would have been quickly resolved in time for him to play in at least one of the team’s summer league games. The 6-7, 218-pound multi-purpose guard from Real Madrid has been working out on his own on the side during practice sessions.
But it is highly unlikely Doncic will play in any of the Mavs’ remaining summer league games.
“Now we’ve got to get him some live practice time and see if we can get him a game or two,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “At this point it’s challenging because we’re into a high volume of games, we’ve been going every day, and so it’s going to have to be a day off at some point here.
“But he’s been doing everything that he can do to get himself ready and I know he’s anxious to get out there with his teammates. But we’re going to have to just wait and see. Hey look, there’s still a chance he can play a game or two.”
If Doncic does manage to play in a game in Las Vegas, he’ll do so without point guard Dennis Smith Jr. by his side. Smith didn’t play against the Warriors and won’t play in any more games this summer.
Thus, the much-anticipated backcourt matchup involving Smith and Doncic will have to wait until the Mavs open preseason play in October in China.
“I think it’ll be great,” forward Harrison Barnes said. “I think they’ll compliment each other well.
“They have the ability to play off each other and they’re attacking guards. Especially with (center) DeAndre (Jordan) there as a rim roller, I think it’ll help our offense.”
Just Doncic’s size along is appealing to Barnes.
“We’re definitely excited,” Barnes said. “I think his ability to play-make, being a bigger guard in this league, I think he’ll be able to come in and have an impact for us.”
Doncic, 19, joins the Mavs after being the Most Valuable Player in the prestigious EuroLeague this past season. He also was the MVP of the EuroLeague Final 4 when he led Real Madrid to the championship last month, but has now turned his attention to his career in the NBA with the Mavs.
“I just want to play,” Doncic said. “I’m so excited I can finish out my contract.”
The Mavs executed a draft-day grade to acquire Doncic, who had been playing in Europe from September until two days before the NBA Draft.
Atlanta used the third pick of the June 21 NBA Draft to select Doncic, and the Mavs used the fifth pick to draft Trae Young. Shortly thereafter, the Mavs traded the draft rights to Young and a 2019 protected first-round pick to the Hawks for the draft rights to Doncic.
And on Monday, Doncic’s buyout from Real Madrid and letter of clearance from FIBA opened the door for his contract with the Mavs to be finalized.
“He’s super excited to be with the Mavericks,” Carlisle said. “He’s gotten a lot of quality time with his teammates.
“He has done some non-contact things. The bottom line is if we can’t get him any game time here, the rest is just as important with the schedule that he’s been through this year.”
UPDATE (July 11): Luka Doncic has returned to Slovenia, along with Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle, and will not play in Summer League.