Jason Kidd has an affinity for fine paintings, so when the Dallas Mavericks’ coach went searching for a way to describe the incomparable Luka Doncic, he immediately drew a parallel between the team’s point guard and one of the world’s most accomplished artists.
“I look at Luka as a young Picasso,” Kidd said during Monday’s Media Day at American Airlines Center. “(He’s) someone who’s very talented, loves to win and understands how to play the game at a very high level.
“As a coach, I don’t know if anybody told Picasso that he had to use all the paints. But I just want to remind Luka that he can rely on his teammates, and his teammates are going to be there to help him.”
Translation: Kidd doesn’t want Doncic to think the weight of the Mavs is on his shoulders, and that wins and losses rest solely on him. That’s a philosophy Doncic now truly understands.
“I think there’s a lot of things I can grow on off the court, on the court,” Doncic said. “Obviously, this is one of them, and I think he’s right. But I’ve still got to prove a lot of things.”
Actually, Doncic has already proven a lot during his first three seasons. In 199 career games, he has averages of 25.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 7.7 assists, and was named first-team all-NBA over the past two seasons while also being named an All-Star starter during the last two seasons.
Not only that, Doncic spent this offseason leading his home country of Slovenia to its first-ever trip to the Olympics in basketball, where they finished fourth.
“I had the whole country behind me, behind us, and we had a pretty great run,” Doncic said. “But I always want to have a good trip to play for my country.
“Playing for my country, it’s something unbelievable. It’s something to do with your heart, and I will always do it for them.”
A basketball savant, Doncic said the Mavs’ trips to the playoffs the past two seasons, plus his experience in the Olympics, taught him volumes about being a stern leader.
“I think leadership, it develops through the years,” he said. “Every year it’s going to be a little better.
“Obviously, I learned from the playoffs and from the Olympics on how to be a leader. One thing I learned is I have to be more a vocal leader for the team.”
Doncic believes Kidd will help him sharpen his leadership skills. Especially since, during his playing days, Kidd was a quintessential leader who helped the Mavs win the 2011 NBA title.
“It’s terrific for me to learn from a guy that was a champion here as a player, playing the same position as me,” Doncic said. “He was one of the best passers in the NBA and I’m really excited about (playing for Kidd).”
The excitement notwithstanding, Doncic didn’t have his usual amount of down time this past summer, primarily because of the Olympics. But he wasn’t complaining.
“I took about one or two weeks off just to get my mind off basketball,” Doncic said. “It was like two months straight basketball after the season, so I had to get my mind off basketball a little bit and then just start practicing.”
Also during this past summer, Doncic took time to sign a massive five-year, $207 million extension that kicks in at the start of next season. To say that Doncic is overwhelmed by the size of the contract would be a huge understatement.
“I still can’t believe it,” he said. “My dream was to be able to play in the NBA – just to touch the floor.
“Now I’m here. It’s an unbelievable road.”
Part of Doncic’s “unbelievable road” to the NBA came with the help of Igor Kokoskov, who was Doncic’s coach when Slovenia won the EuroBasket 2017 gold medal. Kokoskov is now an assistant coach on Kidd’s staff.
“He was a great coach,” Doncic said of Kokoskov. “He helped everybody, and everybody liked him, so I’m really excited that he’s here.”
Doncic also is excited that he’s one of the favorites by many experts to win this year’s Most Valuable Player award. Ok, he’s tempering those expectations.
“I don’t care about that,” Doncic said. “It’s only the beginning of the season.
“That (MVP voting is) at the end (of the season). That’s far away. The team goal and my goal is to win the championship. That’s it.”
Doncic’s teammates appreciate what he brings to the table for them and for the Mavs.
“Every time I think about Luka I think about the natural talent that he is,” forward/center Kristaps Porzingis said. “He’s just a super talented basketball player, and he’s extremely smart on the court, also.
“He knows what it takes to win.”
The Mavs’ quest to win the franchise’s second championship starts when training camp opens on Tuesday. It’s also when Doncic’s teammates – the old and new ones – discovers a little bit more about his exceptional artistic talents.
That goes for the Mavs’ coaching staff as well.
Kidd said: “I’m very excited to have this opportunity to work with a young Picasso who’s paintings have been incredible up to this point and are only going to get better with time and age.”