CHICAGO – This is shaping up to be a very big and very busy weekend for Luka Doncic.
And while in Chicago the next four days for the NBA All-Star Weekend, the Dallas Mavericks’ point guard will be rubbing shoulders with some of the greatest players to ever play this game.
No. 1 on the itinerary for Doncic is that he’ll get to play on the same All-Star team as his childhood idol on Sunday at the United Center. The kicker here is that the childhood idol – LeBron James – “drafted” Doncic to be on his team, mainly because he’s impressed with the second-year Slovenian’s overall game, his flair for the dramatics, and his knack for making fans hang on his every pass, move, and step-back 3-pointer.
James’ ringing endorsement to have Doncic on his team speaks volumes in the eyes of the Mavs’ superstar.
“When I was watching the All-Star draft (last Thursday), I was hoping he would pick me,” Doncic said. “It’s going to be something special.”
No. 2 on Doncic’s to-do list is his first face-to-face meeting with the incomparable Michael Jordan, who guided the Bulls to an incredible six NBA titles during a dominant eight-year span in the 1990s. Earlier this season, Doncic, who grew up admiring Jordan, signed a five-year contract to endorse the Jordan Brand.
“I spoke to him, but I haven’t met him yet,” Doncic said of Jordan. “I’m going to meet him in Chicago and it’s going to obviously be something amazing.”
Ironically, what Doncic has been able to accomplish during his short tenure in the NBA has been nothing short of amazing. After leading Real Madrid to the 2018 EuroLeague championship, Doncic was the EuroLeague regular season Most Valuable Player and the EuroLeague Final Four MVP.
Less than a month later, Doncic was the third overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft. Less than a year later, he was the overwhelming NBA Rookie of the Year award winner.
Now, he joins Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki as the only Mavericks to start in an NBA All-Star game.
Oh yeah, Doncic also will participate in Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge game. Then again, he’s already a star who has risen to extraordinary heights in a short period of time.
“I’m excited for Luka,” owner Mark Cuban said. “I know this is important to him.
“I just hope that he has fun, learns something and stays healthy! Hopefully this is the first of many (All-Star game appearances).”
In the short time he’s coached Doncic, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle has noticed something rather unique about the player who has produced more triple-doubles (20) before the age of 21 than anybody in NBA history.
“He was pretty mature when he got here — pretty worldly,” Carlisle said. “(He’s had) a lot of real-life experiences out in the big world.
“He spent a lot of time away from home as a teenager as he was becoming a professional with Real Madrid. As we all move along, we all tend to evolve and become more experienced and a little more whatever.”
The evolution of Doncic has led him to the All-Star starting lineup on Team LeBron alongside Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and James. For Doncic, this is akin to getting a gold-plated invitation to an exclusive club.
“When you get introduced as a starter in the All-Star game, that’s a pretty big deal,” Carlisle said. “That will be a moment I’m sure that he will remember forever.
“You do it once, the goal will be to duplicate it and continue to get back there. The hope is that from a health standpoint, he’s going to be feeling good.”
Doncic missed seven games with a right ankle sprain before returning Wednesday with 33 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in 31 minutes during the Mavs’ 130-111 win over the Sacramento Kings. Afterwards, he said he was feeling fine, had no effects from the drubbing of the Kings, and has no preconceived notions about what to expect at the All-Star game, other than he plans to thoroughly enjoy himself.
“I’m very excited,” Doncic said. “It’s my first All-Star game, it’s going to be something special. It may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’ve just got to enjoy it.”