Luka Doncic

Mavericks Notes: Doncic, Free Agency, Porter

The Mavericks haven’t had much luck recruiting star free agents to Dallas over the last several years, but it’s possible that Luka Doncic could help change that, Sean Deveney writes in his latest Sporting News article. With longtime star Dirk Nowitzki on his last legs, Doncic looks like the Mavs’ next franchise player, and the idea of playing alongside the young star could appeal to players considering Dallas in free agency.

“It’s always hard to make that pitch and get over the hump with free agents,” a league source said to Deveney. “But they (the Mavericks) didn’t really have a chance with those guys. Players mostly like (owner Mark) Cuban, and they were always a compelling enough franchise to get in the room with LeBron (James) and Dwight Howard and other stars. But they could not present themselves as a team with a great future.

“They can do that now,” the source continued. “Not sure they can push a star to put his name on the line, but ‘Come play with Luka,’ it’s a better message.”

As that source hints, it still seems unlikely that the Mavs will be a serious player this summer for elite free agents like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, or Klay Thompson. However, Deveney believes that it might be worth the effort for the team to make an offer to one or more of those players. The franchise will have significant cap room this summer and it would serve as a reminder that Dallas can still be an appealing destination for top players. Khris Middleton and DeMarcus Cousins could also be targets, Deveney adds.

Here’s more out of Dallas:

  • Michael Scotto of The Athletic previously reported that the Mavericks have interest in Otto Porter, which Deveney confirms. According to Deveney though, the Wizards seem uninterested in moving Porter as a pure salary dump, and Dallas likely wouldn’t want to include draft picks or Dennis Smith Jr. as part of an offer to Washington.
  • Count Dirk Nowitzki among those optimistic about the Mavericks’ future, as Deveney relays. “We’ve been through some tough years — a lot after the championship — but the last couple, extremely tough,” Nowitzki said. “But we feel like we have got some great young guys. We drafted Dennis last year and we drafted Luka this year. Those are some great young guys we can build around. They’re both only 20 years old or so. We have some cornerstones we can build on. Hopefully this franchise is going in the right direction.”
  • Jalen Brunson and Devin Harris are among the guards who could see increased workloads with J.J. Barea sidelined for the rest of the season, writes Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. As Caplan details, head coach Rick Carlisle called Barea’s torn Achilles a “gut-wrenching” injury.
  • The Mavericks applied for a disabled player exception as a result of Barea’s injury. Here’s our full story on what exactly that means.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Payton, Knight, Walker IV

Mavericks sensation Luka Doncic has drawn comparisons to a young LeBron James early in his rookie season, stuffing the stat sheet and impacting the game on both ends of the floor as the team’s lead player through 33 games.

Doncic, who was drafted by the Mavs with the No. 3 pick in June, has been a prime Rookie of the Year candidate with averages of 19 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 5.1 APG on 43% shooting from the field. The sudden comparisons to a player of James’ caliber have amazed the young star.

“I mean, it’s amazing,” Doncic said of the comparisons, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “You all know that he’s my idol, so it’s just amazing to be there.”

Doncic’s preferred team on draft night was the Mavericks, with agent Bill Duffy making a strong push to land his client in Dallas at the time, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. Doncic has quickly become a household name at just 19 years old, working to become the next face of the Mavericks organization.

“He’s made a name for himself,” Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki said. “Any time you’re known by just your first name after just a few months in the league, that’s a great sign.”

Here are some other notes from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans guard Elfrid Payton participated in parts of practice Thursday with a splint on his finger, according to Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link). Guillory also reports the Pelicans are hopeful Payton can return in the next week, with the 24-year-old rehabbing from a broken finger suffered in November.
  • Brandon Knight is still acclimating to his new situation with the Rockets, Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle writes“He’s in a tough spot,” coach Mike D’Antoni said of Knight. “He hasn’t played in a year and a half. This is not an experimental league. We don’t really practice. He needs to play, and we’re not in a position to allow that.” Knight has appeared in six games with the Rockets this season.
  • Spurs rookie Lonnie Walker IV continues to have a positive mindset despite not making his season debut yet. Walker has traveled to the Spurs’ G League team and back several times this season, working to improve after tearing his meniscus in the preseason. “Everyone always has higher hopes,” Walker said, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “It’s your rookie season. You can’t compare yourself to other people. It’s a horse race. You’ve got to stay in your own lane. Sooner or later, I see that light at the end of the tunnel. Whether it’s now or next year or my third year, it’s only a matter of time until people understand who Lonnie Walker is. So I’m not (in) too much of a rush. Patience is key.”

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Knight, House, Doncic

Despite all of the attention on Anthony Davis and the speculation about his long-term future, Scott Kushner writes for The Journal Times that the Pelicans have more pressing issues to solve, most notably their inability to close out games.

As Kushner points out, the Pelicans are the worst clutch team in the NBA, as they are 5-11 in games that are within five points in the final five minutes. In fact, during those situations the Pelicans are outscored by 28.6 points per 100 possessions, the worst net rating.

This is a stark contrast to last season, when the Pelicans led the league in clutch wins with 30. Before they have to deal with Davis’ future, the Pelicans have to figure out how to win this season, which will often come down to their ability to close out games in crunch time.

There’s more from the Southwest division:

  • With Chris Paul out for the next couple of weeks, Brandon Knight is ready to step up and contribute if given the playing time. As Jonathan Feigen writes for The Houston Chronicle, Knight has struggled to find his shot since returning from injury, and with the Rockets adding Austin Rivers earlier today, Knight may find himself short on minutes in the rotation.
  • Danuel House has provided an unexpected lift for the Rockets off the bench in recent weeks, and he even started against the Spurs this weekend due to Paul’s injury. As Feigen reveals for The Houston Chronicle, starting in his hometown was a meaningful experience for House.
  • When asked about his comments regarding his desire to play with Anthony Davis, LeBron James mentioned several other great players in the league that he would love to play alongside. As SportsDay Dallas points out, James included Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic in that list, highlighting his respect for the rookie’s strong start to the season.

Suns Notes: Rivers, Oubre, Doncic, McDonough

Although initial reports suggested the Suns would likely release Austin Rivers without a buyout, the veteran guard ended up giving back $650K to the team when he was waived this week, per Gina Mizell of The Athletic (Twitter link). Rivers had been on a $12.65MM expiring deal, so he’ll still make $12MM in 2018/19 as a result of that contract, with Phoenix paying the majority of that money.

As cap expert Albert Nahmad details (via Twitter), Rivers should still come out ahead as long as it doesn’t take him long to finalize a new deal. If Rivers signs shortly after clearing waivers on Thursday, a minimum salary contract for the rest of the season would pay him about $1.2MM. He could tack on that figure to the $12MM he’s already earning on his previous deal, exceeding $13MM for the season.

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Following last week’s failed three-team trade drama and an eventual move to Phoenix, Kelly Oubre spoke to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News about his new NBA home, suggesting that he’s “excited” about the change. Sources tell Deveney that Oubre drew interest from multiple teams, including his hometown Pelicans, before the Suns acquired him.
  • Deveney also reports that Oubre would “certainly be willing” to remain in Phoenix beyond this season, despite the club’s spot at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Of course, since he’s a restricted free agent in 2019, it might be tricky for him to change teams even if he wanted to.
  • Within a profile on Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon cites a source who says that Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov “loved” Doncic, but had minimal input in Phoenix No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft.
  • After being fired by the Suns in October, former general manager Ryan McDonough plans to stay involved in the NBA in some capacity, but it still figuring out his next steps, he tells Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. In the meantime, he’s staying busy in an informal capacity for some NBA clubs. “A number of teams — probably a majority of the other 29 clubs — reached out, and a lot of them expressed interest in having me come visit or just kind of come observe what they do and exchange ideas and all that kind of stuff,” McDonough said. “So that’s what I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks. I was in Oakland on Monday night for the Grizzlies-Warriors game and was around the Golden State group for a few days, and in the weeks before that I’ve been to Denver and Utah and San Antonio, as well.”

Joerger: Fox, Bagley Are Next Westbrook, Durant

Kings head coach Dave Joerger made some headlines after he praised standout rookie Luka Doncic following Sacramento’s tilt against the Mavericks on Sunday. Despite some skepticism about Doncic’s ability to translate his overseas success to the NBA, the 19-year-old is the early frontrunner for Rookie of the Year.

“Perhaps there was an idea that there was a ceiling on him.,” Joerger said, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “I don’t see it, unfortunately for us. But he’s great for them and he’s great for our league”.

Some interpreted Joerger’s comments as veiled criticism of the organization, given his reportedly tumultuous relationship with certain front office members — the Kings passed on Doncic in the NBA Draft and instead used the second overall pick on Duke’s Marvin Bagley III. Doncic was taken third overall by the Hawks and traded to Dallas.

On Monday, Joerger clarified his comments, stating this praise for Doncic involved “no veiled shots at anybody,” per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link). Instead, Joerger used a high benchmark to predict the ceiling on the Kings’ young core of Bagley and De’Aaron Fox, the fifth overall pick in 2017.

“When we drafted Marvin at 2, we were high-fiving like crazy,” Joerger added. “We got the right guy for us. This isn’t going to be a story in three days and it’ll be definitely buried five years from now when we have the next Durant-Westbrook. That’s how good they’re gonna be.”

Southwest Notes: Mavericks, Conley, White

In what is a surprise to many, the Mavericks are the current kings of Texas, having jumped out to a strong 13-11 start. As Brad Townsend writes for SportsDay Dallas, the additions of Luka Doncic and DeAndre Jordan have helped boost the Mavericks from the lottery to the playoff picture.

Doncic has been sensational as a rookie, averaging 18.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game while hitting several clutch shots down the stretch of games. Jordan has improved the Mavericks’ rebounding and has provided an interior presence that the team has lacked in recent years.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks’ bench has been very successful, as J.J. Barea and Dwight Powell have played well in their specified roles. With Rick Carlisle at the helm, the Mavericks appear to be a very competitive team this season that has a good chance of sneaking into the playoffs.

There’s more from the Southwest division:

  • Mike Conley is struggling with a dislocated finger, which hampered his play against the Lakers last week. As David Cobb reveals for Commercial Appeal, Conley had trouble holding the ball, which obviously isn’t a good thing for the Grizzlies‘ leading guard. Conley believes the swelling and discomfort will improve in the coming days.
  • Derrick White continues to work on regaining his confidence and comfort after coming back from injury earlier this season. Jabari Young of The Athletic details the support that White has received from the Spurs‘ coaching staff and some of his teammates as he looks to make his mark in the Spurs’ depleted backcourt.
  • A recent Southwest notes post detailed Dirk Nowitzki‘s upcoming return to action, how the addition of Joakim Noah impacts other bigs on the Grizzlies roster and much more.

Texas Notes: Doncic, Pondexter, Spurs, Bzdelik

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, the early-season favorite for Rookie of the Year, hasn’t needed time to adjust to the NBA game, writes Martin Rogers of USA Today. Unlike past European stars who have struggled with the faster pace, Doncic has made an impact right away, averaging 19.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game in his first three weeks in the NBA.

Teammate Dirk Nowitzki, who made the same transition 20 years ago, believes Doncic has benefited from rules changes that limit the amount of contact by defenses.

“The game is easier to adjust to now than it was 10 years ago,” Nowitzki said. “It is less physical and more free flowing, so everything is set up for him to succeed and do well.”

There’s more NBA news from the Lone Star State:

  • Veteran swingman Quincy Pondexter has a “50-50” shot at staying on the Spurs‘ roster for the entire season, according to Jabari Young of The Athletic. Pondexter, who signed with San Antonio in August, is the only player on the team without a guaranteed contract. He has appeared in six games and is only playing 7.5 minutes per night, but has been a positive influence in the locker room. Young believes his fate will depend on whether the Spurs decide they want to sign someone who has been bought out.
  • The Spurs plan to scout several players before filling their second two-way slot, Young adds in the same story. San Antonio gave one spot to Drew Eubanks shortly before camp opened, but has been keeping the other one vacant. Young doesn’t believe its being held for injured forward Josh Huestis, formerly of the Thunder, who is now with the Spurs’ G League affiliate in Austin.
  • The Rockets opted to keep the same defensive philosophy as last season despite a change in personnel and are bringing back associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik to try to make it work, notes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Bzdelik, who installed the switching-heavy approach that took Houston to within a game of the NBA Finals, announced his retirement shortly before the start of training camp. However, team officials convinced him to return and he plans to rejoin the Rockets at the end of this month.

Mavericks Notes: Early Struggles, Nowitzki, Matthews

Despite early season buzz and expectations surrounding the Mavericks‘ young core and the addition of DeAndre Jordan, they have gotten off to another slow start this season, sitting at just 2-7. As Eddie Sefko writes for The Dallas Morning News, this start looks eerily similar to past seasons, as the Mavericks are no stranger to such struggles.

As a result of anticipation surrounding the backcourt pairing of Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic, as well as the signing of Jordan, many were expecting the Mavericks to make a significant jump in the Western Conference. Even with Doncic impressing on a nightly basis, Dallas has struggled to win games, despite a relatively easy schedule to start the season.

Sefko points out that there are ways out of this early hole, with the Mavericks getting Dirk Nowitzki back in the near future as Harrison Barnes continues to work his way back from a preseason injury. The Mavericks have yet to have their ideal rotation playing together, which can give them some confidence that things will turn around.

It will take plenty of fight and effort, as well as a healthy rotation, for the Mavericks to truly turn things around given how tough the conference will be this season. Early signs indicate that this will be another year of growth and development for the Mavericks.

There’s more from the Mavericks:

  • Speaking of Nowitzki, Eddie Sefko (via Twitter) also points out that coach Rick Carlisle would be “thrilled” if the 40-year-old big man plays in games this month. Nowitzki has been working out during practices, but this seems to indicate that he is still several weeks away from getting on the court during games.
  • After earlier reports revealed that Wesley Matthews had an intense meeting with Mavericks’ President of Basketball Operations Donnie Nelson after the team’s loss to the Knicks on Friday, according to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News, Rick Carlisle is denying that the meeting was heated in any way.

Texas Notes: Mbah a Moute, Anthony, Mavericks, DeRozan

Luc Mbah a Moute only played one season with the Rockets, but he admits it’s going to be an odd feeling when he faces his former teammates tonight, relays Mirjam Swanson of The Daily Bulletin. Mbah a Moute came to Houston as a free agent last summer at the urging of Chris Paul, then returned to the Clippers over the offseason after receiving a one-year, $4.3MM offer.

“It’s always, always [weird],” said Mbah a Moute, who has been with six organizations in his 10-year career. “Especially that team, we had a really good team and a chance to do something special, so it’s going to be weird, but I look forward to it.”

Mbah a Moute provided a strong defensive presence off the bench for the Rockets. He averaged 7.5 PPG and shot .364 from 3-point range, but a late-season shoulder injury limited his effectiveness in the playoffs.

There’s more NBA news from the Lone Star State:

  • Carmelo Anthony seems like an uncomfortable fit with a Rockets team that emphasizes 3-point shooting, and a look at the stats shows he will have to change his game to be effective in Houston, according to Ben Alamar of ESPN.
  • The future the Mavericks envision was on display in Saturday’s win over the Timberwolves, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. First-round pick Luka Doncic had 26 points and six rebounds, while last year’s star rookie, Dennis Smith Jr., poured in 19 points, including the game-winning shot. “Hey, if that was a peek at the future, it’s looking good,” said J.J. Barea. “Great win. And you see Luka. He just plays the game. And Junior, he had foul trouble, stuck with it and made the big shot. He took a tough shot and made it. They’re tough.”
  • DeMar DeRozan has adapted quickly to his new situation with the Spurs, relays Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express News. DeRozan had a difficult time changing teams after nine seasons in Toronto, but he’s averaging 28.0 PPG through his first two games with San Antonio. “He’s absorbed everything we’ve given him so far, knowing full well it’s a new system,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “It will take some time for him to feel totally comfortable, but he’s highly intelligent. It’s the NBA, it’s not rocket science so he’s picking it up pretty quickly.”
  • Former Spurs forward DeJuan Blair is back in the organization after being drafted by Austin in Saturday’s G League draft, McDonald adds in the same story.

Texas Notes: Butler, Capela, Walker, Doncic

The Rockets haven’t given up hope on trading for Jimmy Butler, but they’re planning for the season with their current roster, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic. Houston has been among the most persistent suitors for Butler, but hasn’t come close to meeting the Timberwolves’ asking price, which reportedly remains very high.

The Rockets’ front office is skeptical that Minnesota is serious about dealing away Butler, Amick adds. There is a belief that Wolves coach/executive Tom Thibodeau still hopes Butler can be convinced to stay despite his public trade request and the ongoing tension in the locker room. This comes on the heels of a similar report out of Los Angeles that the Clippers have tried to make a deal and objections from Miami about Minnesota’s asking price.

There’s more NBA news from the Lone Star State:

  • His teammates are now calling him “Swiss Bank,” but Rockets center Clint Capela insists he won’t be changed by the five-year, $80MM contract he signed this summer, relays Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. A restricted free agent, Capela was hoping to receive a maximum or near-max offer sheet. Although that never came and negotiations dragged on for nearly a month, he wound up with a sizable deal to stay in Houston. “The money is not weighing him down, I can tell you that,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He’s been great. I think he looks about how he looked halfway through the year.”
  • The torn meniscus that is expected to keep Spurs rookie Lonnie Walker out for six to eight weeks is the second one of his career, notes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express News. He suffered the same injury last July before his freshman season at Miami and was ready for the opening game in November. Walker will have knee surgery Monday and a more exact timetable will be set for his return.
  • Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic has drawn rave reviews during the preseason, but he needs to cut down on turnovers, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Doncic has given the ball up eight times in 60 minutes of action, with four of those coming on traveling calls. “The behind the back [passes] and all that is good when it goes well,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He threw one of them to somebody over in the second row one time. We’ve got to correct that. He’s adapting to the different ways they call traveling in the NBA. In Europe, they had a different interpretation of it.”