TNT lead play-by-play announcer Marv Albert has seen as much great NBA action – and probably as much bad play, too – as anybody on the planet.
That doesn’t mean he’s seen it all, though.
Albert was on the scene Thursday night for TNT’s national telecast of the Mavericks-Spurs game at American Airlines Center.
Before the game, he took a few moments to discuss all things Maverick.
As a person with no allegiance to any NBA team who has more than 60 years around the league (he started as a Knicks’ ballboy at 16), Albert’s thoughts and analysis carry plenty of weight.
And he doesn’t mind saying that Luka Doncic is doing things that he could not have envisioned from a 20-year-old.
“Luka, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Albert said. “You know, he’s bigger in person than when you see him on TV. And he’s so smart. He sees the floor. I know he’s been compared to so many different players, but he’s unique.”
Doncic returned to action Thursday after missing four games with a sprained ankle. He was a welcomed drawing card for TNT, which has had many a game already this season when New Orleans’ Zion Williamson or a plethora of Golden State Warriors have been sidelined.
Albert said he was intrigued by this Maverick team.
“We haven’t been here in a while,” he said. “But they’re a lot of fun to watch now. They’ve got a good thing going.”
So what would the ceiling be like for this team?
“I think they can make the playoffs, maybe make a round, surprise people to the second round,” Albert said. “But I think they’ll add to it. There are a couple spots where they can get better.
“I think the measure of where they think they can go will determine a lot.”
Proprietor Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson know this team already has produced ahead of the growth curve that most people had pegged for it.
They no doubt will be patient, but opportunistic in adding to or changing the roster.
But in Albert’s estimation, this team has plenty going for it, starting with the chemistry between Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Albert saw Porzingis a lot in New York. And he knows what he’s capable of. But he the way adjustments are being made on the 7-3 Porzingis’ behalf.
“With the Knicks, he was ‘the guy’ on a bad team,” Albert said. “He was able to score, play defense, block shots. I thought he was tremendous until he got hurt.
“I think he will continue to get better here, particularly once Doncic and Kristaps figure things out even moreso.”
Albert added that the Mavericks have an advantage that perhaps a lot of people underestimate.
Since both Doncic and Porzingis are European products, they have the benefit of having grown up a little faster in the European leagues than players who came up learning the game through high school.
“Both of them are so mature,” he said. “That’s what strikes me. I was talking about it with Rick Carlisle, and the fact that they play so young on all these club teams in Europe, they just come over here and they’re so unusually mature. And you just don’t see it from a lot of players.”
Rebounding machine: Porzingis has averaged just a tick under 14 rebounds per game over the last five.
That’s a major upgrade from a 7-3 player who averaged 7.1 rebounds in his 2½ seasons in New York.
Carlisle said there’s a tangible reason why.
“I don’t know that he’s a better rebounder, but the dynamics are different,” Carlisle said. “He’s guarding the five man (opposing center) more often here. In New York, he was almost always guarding the four man (power forward) and they had a guy that was a prototypical five man on the floor (Enes Kanter) guarding the guy closer to the basket.
“Those are semantics. If we had him guarding four men all the time, he wouldn’t get as many. He still does guard four men at some times. When that’s the case, it’s a little more challenging.”
Briefly: The Spurs have shot the fewest 3-pointers in the league this season, at least partly because their two best players, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan are primarily midrange players. “It’s a challenge,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s obvious. They’re shooting threes and we don’t.” Hard to fight the logic that three points accrue at a faster rate than two points do – assuming you can make them . . . Rick Carlisle on the Mavericks’ 8-7 home record going into Thursday’s game: “Over the years, I’ve seen different NBA teams, ourselves included, go through stretches where you’re focus is better on the road, for one reason or another. It’s a more hostile environment. You have your group against everybody. But it’s not really that early anymore. We got to work at fixing it.”