Southwest Notes: Doncic, Kyrie, Lively, Rose, Champagnie

Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd was a part of the 2010/11 Dallas team that won the NBA Finals, but he has already seen enough from Luka Doncic to place him ahead of that year’s Finals MVP – Dirk Nowitzki – on the franchise’s list of all-time best players.

“He’s better than Dirk,” Kidd said of Doncic during a Tuesday radio appearance on 97.1 The Freak (story via Tim MacMahon of ESPN). “He’s in the atmosphere of MJ (Michael Jordan), the best to ever do it, LeBron (James), Kobe (Bryant). And so, just to appreciate what this young man’s doing at the age of 24, (it) is something that Dallas has never seen. I’ve said this internally: He is better than Dirk. He does things that Dirk could never do, and now is the opportunity of getting the right people around him to ultimately win a championship.”

Kidd made his comments in the wake of a record-setting run from Doncic, who followed up a 73-point outburst on Friday with a 17-assist triple-double on Saturday and a 45-point, 15-assist, nine-rebound performance on Monday.

Doncic is now averaging 34.7 points per game this season, far exceeding Nowitzki’s career high of 26.6 PPG in 2005/06. Of course, as MacMahon points out, Luka’s playoff accomplishments fall far short of Nowitzki’s, let alone those of Jordan, James, and Bryant — the Mavs have only advanced beyond the first round once during Doncic’s time in Dallas. However, Kidd is confident that it’s just a matter of time until that changes.

“This young man is 24 and is breaking all the records that stand in front of him,” Kidd said. “He’s a winner, and his ultimate goal is to win a championship. And he will get there and not just win one, but he will win multiple when it’s all said and done.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Kyrie Irving (right thumb sprain) will miss a fifth straight game for the Mavericks on Wednesday in Minnesota, according to the official injury report. The banged-up Mavs will be down two more starters besides Irving, with Doncic (right ankle sprain) and Dereck Lively II (broken nose) also having been ruled out.
  • Grizzlies point guard Derrick Rose is nearing a return from the left hamstring strain that has sidelined him for nearly a full month, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Rose, who hasn’t played since January 2, is participating in five-on-five work and is in the “latter stages” of his recovery, per head coach Taylor Jenkins. The hope is that he’ll be able to return within Memphis’ next three games.
  • As Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required) details, Julian Champagnie was inserted into the Spurs‘ starting lineup last month and has hung onto that spot for the past 20 games by following some simple advice from head coach Gregg Popovich: “Don’t be Kobe.” Popovich wanted to see the second-year forward blend in with the rest of the starters and not try to do too much — so far, so good. “Fitting in is pretty easy, you know?,” Champagnie said. “Just stick to my role, hit open shots, play defense, play hard.”
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