The Mavericks are getting close to the point that they will have to start weighing the pain against the potential gain of playing Luka Dončić, coach Jason Kidd said after Monday morning’s walkthrough.
Kidd said that Dončić, who missed Game 1 of the first-round series against Utah with a strained left calf muscle suffered in the regular season finale, remains officially listed as doubtful, the same designation he carried before sitting out Game 1.
However, improvement has been made. Luka went through the team’s shootaround and shot some half-court shots. But it was Kidd’s comments afterward that gave a clear indication of where the Mavericks are.
“I think there’s a decision to be made,” he said. “As an organization, we’ve been in this before with Dirk (Nowitzki) when he was 23 with his knee against San Antonio in ’03. And Nellie (then-coach Don Nelson) made that decision to not play him.
“Everybody wasn’t happy. But we got to pay attention to history. As an organization, that time is coming that we’re going to have to make that decision, either way. And that’s one of the questions, when you have almost exactly the same thing, both 23 years old. Do you play him or not? And we’ve gone through this once before. And we’re going to be right back in that seat again.”
Nowitzki suffered a knee injury in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals in 2003. The decision was Nelson’s to sit him the rest of the series and most people in the organization were in favor of him playing, including owner Mark Cuban.
But years later, even Nowitzki admitted it was the right decision for a young, rising superstar. And Luka this season is every bit the young, rising superstar that Nowitzki was in 2003.
Every player wants to be on the court, but NBA history is littered with players who tried to return too quickly from injury and did worse damage – sometimes to another body part because they were compensating for the original injury. It happened with Utah last year when Mike Conley made matters worse by coming back early from a leg injury and suffered a hamstring injury.
Making that decision is where the Mavericks will be at some point later in this series, Kidd said. But there was no hint when that time will come.
“He went through shootaround, we’ll see how he feels before the game,” he said. “He’s definitely going in the right direction. He’s doing more each day.
“As I’ve said from the start, he’s in a great place mentally. He’s been happy, he’s been joking. Sometimes, when you get hurt, you can get grumpy. If you’re older and you get hurt, you get grumpy. But he’s young. He’s doing everything he can do up to this point and hopefully he can play soon, but if he can’t play, we got to play without him.”
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