Texas Notes: Spurs, Luka, VanVleet, Thompson

Mavericks All-Star guard Luka Doncic appears to be growing as a leader in Dallas, opines Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com. After Dallas survived a poor shooting night from its best player to beat the Spurs 113-107 this past Tuesday, Doncic expressed his gratitude to his teammates.

“One of the biggest things after the game is he thanked his teammates in the locker room for picking him up,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “When a leader says that, those are big words. You come into the locker room and you don’t shoot the ball extremely well, but you rely on being the quarterback and other guys picked him up.”

There’s more out of the Lone Star State:

  • Standout Spurs rookie center Victor Wembanyama is relishing his tenure under five-time title-winning head coach Gregg Popovich, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “It’s pretty precious and one of the reasons that make this place the best place,” Wembanyama said.
  • Veteran Spurs point guard Devonte’ Graham has emerged as a locker room leader with the club this season, despite not seeing much time on the hardwood, Orsborn adds. “Obviously, we are not going to be playing much basketball in late April, but Devonte’ Graham on our team has held us together,” Popovich said. “He comes out every day whether at shootaround or practice or whatever we might be doing and is in the middle of everything, upbeat.” 
  • The league has rescinded a technical foul assessed to Rockets point guard Fred VanVleet during the team’s 127-117 victory over the Bulls on Thursday, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).
  • Rockets rookie forward Amen Thompson has been frequently tasked with covering opposing centers defensively, with starting Houston five Alperen Sengun now out for the season, writes Feigen in another piece. Head coach Ime Udoka has been able to mitigate the 6’7″ Thompson’s lack of a jumper by exploiting his athleticism in matchups against bigger, less mobile centers. “Him in the roll, him in the pocket with his passing ability is an asset to have,” Udoka said. “We’ve mentioned guys like Ben Simmons, guys like Giannis (Antetokounmpo) who have done similar things at times in their career. He can learn to implement those things.” Across his last five contests, Thompson has averaged 16.4 PPG on 64.2% shooting from the floor, along with 9.4 RPG, 3.0 APG, and 1.2 SPG. “You’ve seen him improve just with the playing time alone, let alone the role we’re asking him to do,” Udoka continued. “A guy that’s had the ball in his hands his whole career, you put him out there with Fred and Jalen (Green) in the starting lineup now, you kind of have to divide those opportunities, the ball-handling duties. He does impact it in other ways.”
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