From James Borrego’s vantage point, Luka Doncic has that same clutch gene as former San Antonio Spurs standout guard Manu Ginobili.
Borrego was an assistant coach with the Spurs from 2003-’10 and again from ’15-’18. So he saw first-hand when Ginobili frequently took over games, and he sees the same pattern with Doncic.
“To be this young and impact the NBA the way he has it just speaks to how special player he is,” said, now head coach of Charlotte. “The poise he plays with, the maturity he plays with, that’s very unique for a young player. But he’s had his hands on the ball for a number of years, he’s been on the professional level for a number of years, and I think that helps.
“I think back to a guy like Manu Ginobili, which we had in San Antonio. When we got him — he was a little bit older (25) obviously than Luka (20) — but he had that playing experience under his belt.”
So much so that Borrego couldn’t help but to express the obvious.
“Both guys they remind me a little bit of each other — just not being afraid of the moment,” Borrego said. “They almost relish the moments, the big moments, stepping up to the moments, wanting the ball in their hands. Just a special, special talent.”
Doncic entered Saturday’s 123-120 overtime loss to Charlotte averaging 29.1 points, 9.6 rebounds and 8.9 assists, and was the leading vote-getter in the first round of voting released this past Thursday for next month’s All-Star game. He finished Saturday’s game with 39 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists while registering his team-record single-season 10th triple-double.
“He’s special,” Borrego said. “I can’t think of another player like him and I think he’s a combination of a few guys, but great competitor number one, great poise, IQ is extremely high.
“He makes great decisions almost 90 percent of the time with the ball. He’s hitting the right guy, making the right play, he has the ability to stretch the floor making the threes off the bounce, and he’s a big-time clutch player. He’s almost more comfortable end of game than he is to start the game. Tremendous talent, great for our sport.”
KLEBER HAS A CAREER NIGHT: Maxi Kleber scored a career-high 24 points in 35 minutes off the bench during Saturday’s 123-120 overtime loss to the Charlotte Hornets.
That came one game after Kleber notched his previous season high of 18 pints during Thursday’s 123-111 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
“Maxi’s been good — he’s been real good lately,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s responding well and one that is producing well. We just need him to continue doing what he’s doing, and as a team we just got to make a few more plays, get a few more rebounds.”
Kleber was 8-of-14 from the field, including 6-of-12 from beyond the 3-point line.
“It’s part of his game,” Carlisle said, in reference to Kleber’s 3-point shooting. “He’s a very good all-around player. He’s driving and kicking the heck out of it, particularly in the second half.
“Defensively he does a lot of great things. He works hard on it, and the threes have just been trending up and up and up and up, and it’s great because he need it.”
Kleber’s previous career higb was a 21-point game he delivered against the San Antonio Spurs back on Dec. 16, 2017.
CARTER PLAYS IN FOURTH DECADE: Atlanta Hawks forward Vince Carter became the first NBA player to play in four different decades when his Atlanta Hawks hosted the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.
Carter, who turns 43 on Jan 26, played for the Mavs and coach Rick Carlisle from 2011-’14.
“Vince Carter is one of the most remarkable athletes I’ve ever seen,” Carlisle said. “I’ve seen him play in Dirk (Nowitzki’s celebrity) baseball game and he swings the bat like a major leaguer, he can throw the ball a mile on a dime, he ‘s a helluva tennis player from what I understand.
“He’s a great athlete. The fact that he’s been able to stay healthy through his 22nd year and still contribute pretty significantly for Atlanta is just amazing. Great guy, and his three years here he ‘ll always be part of the family here and he’ll be remembered here.”
CARLISLE RECALLS WHEN CUBAN TOOK OVER: Although he wasn’t the Dallas Mavericks’ coach at the time, Rick Carlisle recalls when Mark Cuban purchased the Mavs from Ross Perot Jr. on Jan. 4, 2000.
“We played here that spring — I was an assistant in Indiana– I remember talking to (then-Mavs assistant coach) Donnie Nelson before the game,” Carlisle sad. “There was a little uncertainty as to what was going to happen to everybody.
“Donnie and I had gotten to know each other well at that point and time because we came into the league as young assistants and he said, ‘Yeah, he’s going to keep us.’ ”
The Mavs weren’t exactly setting the world on fire when Cuban purchased them for $285 million. But now they have a 2011 NBA title under their belt, and they’re worth approximately $2 billion.
“They were in a rebuild and wins and losses, they had’t been doing great, but they were starting to get better and compete better,” Carlisle said. “Mark was very loyal to the people that were in place when he took over the team.
“Time flies when the years have gone by like that. It’s been a pretty good investment for him — $285 million and worth a couple of billion today. I’d say that’s a pretty good return on your dollar.”
WASHINGTON CAME HOME AS A PRO FOR THE FIRST TIME: Charlotte Hornets forward P. J. Washington made his first appearance in Dallas as an NBA player on Saturday night, and finished with 19 points and six rebounds in 39 minutes.
A 6-7, 236-pound rookie out of Kentucky, Washington is a 2017 graduate of Dallas’ Prime Prep Academy, and had several family members and friends attend Saturday’s game.
“To be at this level, to accomplish what he has at this point just speaks to all those people that invested in him early on,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “And when you get to come home I think we all reflect back on those people that helped us get here, and kind of your journey along the way.
“So, it’s special to come home and I think it means something to him. He understands where he’s at, but there’s a lot of people that helped him get to this point.”