MINNEAPOLIS – When asked before Friday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves if Dallas Mavericks rookie forward Luka Doncic has been a surprise thus far this season, Rick Carlisle didn’t mince words.
“I supposed you’d have to say he’s exceeded expectations,” the Mavs’ coach said. “But the interesting thing is when we drafted him (last June) we didn’t play him in the summer league because he had played for basically two years straight in EuroBasket, EuroLeague, Euro this, Euro that — there’s all kinds of leagues over there.
“We felt he needed the rest and that throwing him out there in a summer league situation was probably not a good idea. We did a little shooting with him in the gym and stuff like that, so you knew that the guy had skills — we saw films. Then when he showed up in the fall and started playing pickup with our guys it was pretty clear that he had amazing vision, he had a great feel for playmaking and all that kind of stuff, and the guys liked playing with him.”
Not much has changed since that initial first impression of Doncic. Other than the fact that the rest of the NBA world now knows that this 19-year old teenager has quickly evolved into becoming one of best players in the world.
“Here we are today and he’s done a lot of great things,” Carlisle said. “We’re 41 games into (this season) with 41 to go.
“He’s still learning, but he loves to play and his teammates love playing with him.”
What Doncic doesn’t love is all the attention that comes with being one of the best players in the world. Lots of media attention, lots of requests for pictures and autographs – typical stuff reserved for superstar athletes who are averaging 19.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game.
“He doesn’t want the attention,” Carlisle said. “He’s been getting this kind of attention since he was 14 or 15. My understanding is he was signed as a professional player (by Real Madrid) at age 13, so he was always a prodigy type prospect and there was always tons of attention.
“He’s not interested in the attention. He likes to compete and he loves his teammates, but he’s great with people. If you want autographs he’ll do what he can, but he wants to make it about the team and that’s the thing that you love most about him.”