BOSTON – Luka Doncic was out bowling with some of his Dallas Mavericks teammates in Boston on Thursday when he found out he was in second place among frontcourt players in the fan voting to start for the Western Conference in next month’s NBA All-Star game.
To say that Doncic was taken aback would be the understatement of the year.
“I saw the list, so I was just surprised,” Doncic said following Friday morning’s shootaround at TD Garden. “I thought it was amazing. I was the happiest guy in the world right then.”
Happiness came from Doncic after he received 679,839 votes from fans across the world, with those numbers released by the NBA on Thursday. The only West frontcourt player that had more votes was Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, who collected 1,083,363 votes.
The fan voting accounts for 50 percent of the total votes in determining the All-Star starters. The other 50 percent is split from votes from the media and coaches.
Asked if he thought the results of Thursday make it a distinct possibility that he’ll be starting on the front line in the All-Star game next to James, Doncic didn’t mince words.
“After yesterday, I think it’s a possibility,” he said. “Everyone dreams to be there. When I was a kid I dreamed about being able to play in the NBA, and now I have a possibility to be in the All-Star game, so it’s just a dream.”
Doncic, 19, leads the Mavs in scoring with 19.5 points per game, and also averages 6.6 rebounds and five assists. The 6-7 forward has been such a dominant force that he’s scored 20 or more points in 20 games, and has captivated fans so much that he always receives a warm welcome during pre-game introductions at home and on the road.
“It’s Luka-mania. It’s real,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “He definitely deserves to be up there (in the All-Star voting). I’m not sure if in front of (Kevin Durant) and all these guys, but he’s been tremendously efficient and consistent for us.
“I always say the hardest thing for me was to play consistent where one night you’re great, then the next night you have to bring it again, and he’s been doing that. And that at 19 is really, really hard. I know of that from going through it.”
Doncic has become such a media darling in part because of the infectious smile he flashes at times when he’s on the court, in part because he’s only a teenager, and in part because he’s a novelty who is just ripping through NBA defenses with hardly any problems. As far as the attention, coach Rick Carlisle said:
“He handles all that stuff well and he’s playing with teammates that are easy to play with and compliment him and vice versa. He’s not a typical rookie because he’s been playing professionally (in Europe) for four or five years, so the adjustments relative to seeing teams for the second time probably aren’t as abrupt as they would be for younger kids just coming out of college.”
Doncic was drafted third overall last June and the Mavs made a draft day trade with the Atlanta Hawks to acquire his services. That move has paid high dividends for the Mavs as Doncic has not only wowed fans with his patented step-back jump shot, but also with his ability to knock down the 3-point shot, rebound and make some dizzying passes.
“He’s been playing consistent ball for us and he’s a highlight reel waiting to happen,” Nowitzki said. “He’s got a lot of stuff in his arsenal, so he’s been fun to watch.”
Last year Doncic was the Most Valuable Player of the EuroLeague and the MVP of the EuroLeague Final Four. Then he promptly made a smooth transition to the NBA as evidence by being named Thursday as the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for the second consecutive month.
“He’s been a very good player overseas for quite a while,” Carlisle said. “He dominated over there, so it was just a matter of getting a deal done to get him drafted and get him here and have him start playing with his teammates.
“He’s done very good things – that’s obvious. The more he sees, the more he experiences, the better he gets.”
And if Doncic is able to survive and become a starter in next moth’s All-Star game, that experience could help take his game to another level.
“When I was a kid I would just dream about being in the NBA,” Doncic said. “Being an All-Star would be like, I don’t know. I just can’ explain it.”