The Mavericks have hit their first snag on the injury front with three players, including starting power forward Kristaps Porzingis, out against San Antonio Thursday night.

Coach Jason Kidd said the team is treating Porzingis’ lower back tightness cautiously and don’t believe it will be a long-term problem.

The 7-3 Latvian will travel to Denver, Kidd said, for Friday’s game.

“KP is out and we will re-evaluate him tomorrow (Friday),” Kidd said. “I think it’s more on the (management) side – to take that precaution and we have a game tomorrow night, so hopefully we can see him tomorrow and he’ll be ready to go.”

Reggie Bullock started in Porzingis’ place.

Kidd said previously that the Mavericks have not discussed limiting Porzingis in back-to-back games, something that was a common strategy in the past two seasons.

After no physical complications this summer, Porzingis came into this season healthier than he has since joining the Mavericks.

In addition to Porzingis, Trey Burke and Sterling Brown missed the Spurs game.

Kidd wanted to be clear that Burke is not ill or injured.

“Trey is not sick,” Kidd said. “There are certain (COVID-19) protocols that have to take place within a certain window of time and it didn’t happen. So he will travel with the team and be available (Friday).”

As for Brown, he sprained his left ankle near the end of practice Wednesday during a five-on-five scrimmage.

Kidd said the 6-5 swingman is day-to-day.

Global game: Gregg Popovich is a student and a big fan of international basketball. He’s seen a lot of it and coached a lot of it.

So when the Spurs’ coach was asked about Luka Dončić’s stardom before Thursday’s game, he broke into a dissertation of what international basketball and what it could have been in the right situation.

“When I think about it, I think about: Imagine if all of Yugoslavia was (still) together and all those guys were on one team. It’s exciting. I mean, you know, the Slovenians, the Croatians, the Serbians, Herzegovina, It’s so cool.

“And you know, he (Dončić) is somebody that always reminds me that when another player from that area pops up and becomes this great, it seems like there aren’t any average ones when they come to the league. If they come to the league, they’re great.”

Popovich referenced the group of Vlade Divac, Toni Kukoc, Zarko Paspa

“And so it throws me back to the days of Divac, Zarko Paspalj, Toni Kukoc. And of the days when Argentina had a whole international team of NBA players.

De-fense, De-fense: Luka Dončić turned heads late in the first quarter of Tuesday’s win over Houston when he came from the high side to cleanly block a baseline drive by Rockets’ rookie Alperen Sengun.

It was noticed by everybody, especially Luka.

“I’m going to quote him,” Kidd said. “He’s in the running for defensive player of the year after that block. Hopefully, I didn’t mess up his quote, but he felt after seeing that on the video that he should be defensive player of the year. It was all in fun. But he’s getting better.”

Kidd said it’s a natural progression that Dončić would make a stride defensively at some point in his young career.

“We’re starting to see another side,” Kidd said. “He’s competing on the defensive end and not just in that game. He’s had a couple blocks. And he can play both ways. He’s starting to show that. He’s going to do whatever it takes and it’s not always on the offensive end. He’s participating on the defensive end.”

Kidd said the defensive end of the floor requires every bit as much mental attention as the offensive end.

He said his first year in the league, he was scared to get embarrassed by the likes of John Stockton or Gary Payton.

“It was just you on an island,” Kidd said. “If there was any sign that you were scared or you were weak, they would want to expose you. I think out of fear I just tried to play as well as I could defensively.

“But as you get older, you start to understand . . . there’s only so many plays, they’re all different names, but everybody kind of runs the same thing, so you start to anticipate what’s coming because you’ve seen it over and over. So just being a student of the game I think helped me defensively.”

Twitter: @ESefko

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