NEW YORK — Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was in the midst of an interview session when the topic switched to the usage rate of point guard Luka Doncic.
Entering Thursday’s game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, Doncic was seventh in the NBA in usage rate at 34.2 percent. In other words, he has the ball in his hands a lot, which is perfectly fine with Carlisle.
“Would you want the ball out of his hands,” Carlisle rhetorically asked a reporter. “When it’s necessary we’ll alleviate some of the usage.
“But frankly, why would we want to do that? But I’ll keep communicating with him on how he’s feeling physically.”
Doncic is averaging 28.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 9.1 assists in 34.5 minutes per game. He was engaged in a rigorous offseason workout program in order to get himself physically ready for this season.
“That’s the reason he put on an amazing amount of time and work into building up a great base of conditioning so that he’ll be great at the beginning of the year, through the All-Star break and to the end of the year,” Carlisle said. “That’s the key thing is long term.
“What he’s done the first 10 games is really remarkable. When you have the ball as much as he has the ball during games, teams are going to put heat on you, they’re going to trap you, they’re going to do all kinds of different things to try to keep you off-balanced.”
In addition to his high usage rate, Doncic also is protecting the ball more. The second-year veteran went from turning the ball over eight times in last Friday’s game in Dallas against the Knicks to combining for just three turnovers in the first two games of this road trip against Memphis and Boston.
“Ball security is a big part of being successful, especially on the road,” Carlisle said. “He’s a great player — one of the best players on the planet. That’s true.
“I talk to him a lot about how he’s feeling and the things that can alleviate certain pressures. He’s in a good place right now.”
Briefly: Following Thursday’s game against the Knicks, the Mavs returned home for a four-game homestand that starts Saturday against the world champion Toronto Raptors. The homestand will also include games on Monday against San Antonio, on Wednesday against Golden State and on Nov. 22 against Cleveland before the Mavs play in Houston on Nov. 24.
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