Destined to be attached at their hoops hip, Luka Dončić and Trae Young don’t have to apologize for anything.
The Atlanta Hawks that the Mavericks play Wednesday on the road are thrilled with that draft-night deal in 2018 that landed them the 6-1 Young and the Mavericks’ 2019 first-round draft pick, which ended up being Cam Reddish.
Members of the Mavericks’ basketball operations would do the deal for Dončić 100 times out of 100 and coach Rick Carlisle has said on many occasions that he wouldn’t trade the 6-7 point guard for anybody.
Certainly looks like a win-win for these teams at this point in the careers of Young and Dončić, although debate is certain to rage throughout their careers.
But really, this probably was one that you couldn’t mess up if you tried.
Luka is coming off a January in which he averaged a triple-double for the month. And over the last eight games, Young has averaged 32.4 points and 9.9 assists.
“Of the top five players, other than Luka, he was the guy who had a chance to be that kind of star player because of his ball skills, quickness, passing ability – and he just has a charismatic way of playing that has great magnetism,” Carlisle said before the Mavericks left on Tuesday for Atlanta. “I don’t know that anybody would have predicted this – (30-plus and 10 over a lengthy span) – but Atlanta certainly thought he was a special player.”
Charisma and magnetism. Those also have been words applied to Dončić.
And kudos go to Atlanta GM Travis Schlenk, who saw how Steph Curry rewrote the blueprint for what a combo guard should look like.
“Travis is from Golden State,” Carlisle said. “And they had obviously a player with similar skills in Steph Curry and I think that was one of the reasons they really liked him (Young).”
Most importantly, Young has the Hawks at 10-10 and leading the admittedly soft (at the moment) Southeast Division.
The Mavericks, meanwhile, are 8-13 and mired in a six-game losing streak that has sunk them to 13th in the Western Conference.
“He was a top-five pick back in my draft,” Jalen Brunson said of Young. “The kid’s good. He’s a great player. I guess he’s doing what he’s been doing since high school. Much respect to his game and his talents. But we got to go out there and do our game plan and hopefully steal one.”
Speaking of that sore subject: The Mavericks were licking their wounds Tuesday after Monday night’s heartbreaker against Phoenix, in which the Suns got a 3-pointer from Devin Booker with 1.5 seconds left for a 109-108 victory.
The mounting losses have become more than annoying to everybody, but particularly Brunson, who was on championship programs in high school and at college (Villanova).
“Awful,” he said when asked about enduring the losing streak. “It’s my third six-game losing streak in my career. Awful. Not a fan.”
But he said digging out of the skid isn’t brain surgery.
“We got to stick together and stay positive,” the 6-1 guard said. “It’s obviously not an easy stretch to go through. But we have guys who are upset and want to win. I think that’s the first step for us.
“Now we just got to go out and prove it to each other that we’re here for each other. Obviously, a stretch nobody wants to be in, but we got to get out of it.”
As Carlisle added: “Losing streaks are very difficult. The most important thing is to stay together and keep fighting. You just got to break through. A lot of things in this league come down to attention to detail. We failed on that at the end of the game (Monday). That’s unfortunate, but we had a lot of mistakes during the game, too.
“It probably shouldn’t have come down to a last play and so we talked about that today. We got to stay positive and upbeat.”
Fluid situation: Dwight Powell was healthy on Monday night but did not play against the Suns.
Carlisle said this may end up being a fact of life for the Mavericks’ backup big men like Powell, Willie Cauley-Stein and Boban Marjanović, at least in the short term.
“With everyone back, it just didn’t work out that he got in the game,” Carlilsle said. “I don’t think there’s going to be an exact science with what’s going to happen with our backup five position.
“Willie’s going to have to be ready. Dwight’s going to have to be ready. Boban is going to have to be ready. All three of those guys bring very different positives and strengths to our situation. The good news is we have great depth. The bad news is it’s going to be challenging at times not knowing how many minutes you’re going to play.”
Two-way players transferred: The Mavericks on Tuesday officially transferred two-way players Tyler Bey and Nate Hinton to the Long Island Nets.
With a healthy roster for the first time this season, it makes sense to place the two-way players in the G-League where they will get plenty of chances to play.
Bey (6-7, 216) has appeared in four games for Dallas this season, logging 13 total minutes. He recorded season bests of five points (2-3 FG, 1-2 3FG), two rebounds and one block in his most recent appearance against Houston on Jan. 23.
Hinton (6-5, 210) has seen action in six games for the Mavericks in 2020-21 and has played 19 minutes. He has totaled eight points in his last two outings against Houston (Jan. 23) and Utah (Jan. 29).
The 2020-21 NBA G League season will tip off on Wednesday, Feb. 10, and feature 18 teams competing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.
The Mavericks’ G League affiliate, the Texas Legends, opted not to travel to the NBA G League’s campus. NBA teams without an NBA G League affiliate participating in Orlando have the opportunity to assign roster players and transfer two-way players using the league’s flexible assignment and two-way rules.
Briefly: The Hawks have battled injury problems, too. Second-leading scorer De’Andre Hunter (knee) and sharpshooter Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee) both are out for Wednesday’s game . . . Incidentally, the player the Hawks drafted with the Mavericks’ first-round pick in 2019 (10th overall) was Cam Reddish, who has turned into a solid rotation piece in his first two seasons. He’s averaging 11.9 points and 4.4 rebounds this season . . . The Mavericks are scheduled to return home after Wednesday’s game for a stout back-to-back match against Golden State on Thursday. They also will play the Warriors on Saturday at AAC.
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