Luka Doncic

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.”

NBA GMs Weigh In On 2018/19 Season

NBA.com has completed its annual survey of NBA general managers, with John Schuhmann of NBA.com asking each of the league’s 30 GMs to answer an array of questions about the league’s top teams, players, and coaches. Unsurprisingly, the Warriors are once again viewed by the NBA’s general managers as the overwhelming favorites to be the last team standing, with 26 of 30 GMs (87%) picking Golden State to win the NBA championship for the fourth time in five years.

While there are many responses in the GM survey worth checking out, we’ll focus on rounding up some of the more noteworthy ones related to rosters and player movement. Let’s dive in…

  • LeBron James (30%) and Kevin Durant (27%) are viewed as the frontrunners for the 2018/19 MVP award, but two younger players led the voting for the player GMs would most want to build a franchise around starting today. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo (30%) and Pelicans big man Anthony Davis (23%) led the way in that category. Interestingly, Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns didn’t receive a single vote this year after leading the way with 29% of the vote in 2017.
  • The Lakers‘ signing of James helped them earn 70% of the vote for the team that made the best overall moves this offseason. The Raptors, buoyed by their acquisition of Kawhi Leonard, finished second at 20%.
  • A ton of different signings and trade acquisitions received votes for the most underrated addition of the summer, with the Pacers‘ signing of Tyreke Evans barely leading the way with four votes. The Spurs‘ trade for DeMar DeRozan, the Bulls‘ signing of Jabari Parker, the Pelicans‘ addition of Julius Randle, and the Thunder‘s acquisition of Dennis Schroder received three votes apiece.
  • DeMarcus Cousins‘ decision to join the Warriors (35%) was considered the most surprising move of the offseason, followed by the Spurs/Raptors blockbuster trade (29%) and Paul George remaining with the Thunder (19%).
  • While Mavericks guard Luka Doncic is the strong frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, GMs expect Suns center Deandre Ayton and Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. to be the best players five years from now. Meanwhile, the Clippers‘ selection of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at No. 11 was viewed by the most GMs as the steal of the draft.
  • The Sixers (47%) and Celtics (33%) dominated voting for the teams with the most promising young cores.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Brase, Harden

It’s not fair to saddle a 19-year-old rookie with the responsibility of turning the Mavs‘ franchise around. Fortunately, Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News writes, Luka Doncic won’t have to.

Although Doncic will face pressure as a highly touted European charged with the task of at least symbolically replacing Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, he’ll get substantial help from incoming veteran DeAndre Jordan.

Jordan, along with young players like Dennis Smith Jr. and Harrison Barnes, should give the Mavs considerably more bite in 2018/19 after a down season last year.

Sefko writes that he thinks Mavs fans can expect the Doncic trade to pay dividends but they may not come for a year or two.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Rockets will add former Rio Grande Valley Vipers coach Matt Brase to head coach Mike D’Antoni‘s staff this season, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle tweets. Joseph Blair is a favorite to replace Brase in the G League.
  • A city prosecutor is reviewing an allegation against James Harden, an Associated Press report states. The Rockets star allegedly grabbed a woman’s wrist and threw her cellphone on the roof outside of a nightclub when she was recording a fight.
  • The Spurs will roster a team without several major contributors to their last championship, this season. A Basketball Insiders report breaks down their chances of being relevant in 2018/19 and the new challenges ahead.

Mavericks Notes: Jordan, Smith, Doncic

The success of the DeAndre Jordan signing will be determined by how well he can work in the pick and roll with Dennis Smith and Luka Doncic, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Adding Jordan on a one-year, $22.9MM contract and moving up in the draft to take Doncic were the major offseason moves for a team that finished 23 games out of the playoff race.

Jordan not only solves the Mavericks’ rebounding problem — he’s led the league twice in that category and averaged a career best 15.2 boards per game last season — he adds an extra dimension to coach Rick Carlisle’s offense. Jordan has shot better than 60% from the field in each of his 10 NBA seasons and mastered the pick and roll with Chris Paul in Los Angeles.

There’ more today out of Dallas:

  • Improving his 3-point shot is the best way for Smith to avoid a sophomore slump, Sefko writes in a separate player profile. Smith shot just 31% from long distance last season, and defenders figure to give him more space as they try to cut off his drives to the basket. Sefko notes that Smith didn’t wear down during his first season in the league, with his scoring, assists and shooting percentages over the final 15 games all rating better than his season averages.
  • The Mavericks insist Doncic can be a difference maker, but it’s going to be a while before we know for sure, Sefko writes in another profile. Dallas made a bold move to trade up to the No. 3 spot in the draft to acquire Doncic and team him with Smith in its backcourt of the future. Although he cautions it will take at least another year, Sefko expects Doncic and Smith to develop into the foundation of a playoff team.
  • Doncic will be a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year honors, though he’ll get noticed more for his passing than scoring, writes Matt Mosley of The Dallas Morning News. He compares Doncic to Sixers guard Ben Simmons and suggests that the Knicks’ Kevin Knox may be a surprise winner of this year’s ROY honors.

Mavs Notes: Jordan, Marion, Doncic, Mejri, Barea

As part of an ongoing series in anticipation of Mavericks training camp starting later this month, Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News asks whether newly-acquired All-Star big man DeAndre Jordan is on the downslope of his career.

Now a 10-year veteran, Jordan actually averaged 12.0 points and a career-best 15.2 rebounds per game last season for the Clippers, but the team did not perform well, finishing 10th in the always tough Western Conference. Moreover, Jordan’s field goal percentage of .645, while still excellent, was his lowest output since the the 2012/13 season.

While it remains to be seen if Jordan’s game is on the decline, the Mavericks at least somewhat hedged their bet by only signing Jordan to a one-year contract for the 2018/19 season, which will allow the club opportunity to see how Jordan meshes with relative youngsters Dennis Smith Jr., Luka Doncic and Harrison Barnes.

If Jordan ends up descending into the twilight of his career, the Mavs can simply let him go next summer. But if he can continue to average a double-double and be near the top of the NBA in rebounds and field goal percentage again this season, Sefko opines that the Mavericks will gladly re-sign Jordan next summer at whatever price tag is needed.

There’s more from Dallas:

  • Now that the 2018 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class has been enshrined in Springfield, Joe Nguyen of The Denver Post takes a look at some candidates for election next year. Among the first time candidates is do-it-all forward Shawn Marion, who helped the Mavericks win an NBA Championship in 2011.
  • In an appearance on KRLD-FM, Dirk Nowitzki (per Sportando) presented a glowing endorsement of Doncic, admitting that the Slovenian rookie is better than Dirk was at the same age. “Oh yeah (he’s better). I could shoot a little bit but I never had the court vision … the savviness that he brings to the game… He’s going to be fun to watch especially with bigs like DeAndre (Jordan) and Dwight (Powell) rolling to the rim … He’s going to pick defenses apart and it’s going to be fun to watch.”
  • In another piece for The Dallas Morning News, Sefko profiles big man Salah Mejri and his role on the Mavs this upcoming season. Mejri, 32, signed a one-year contract for the veteran’s minimum this offseason. And even though the addition of Jordan won’t do any favors for Mejri’s playing time, the Tunisian big man will be ready to play when needed, as always.
  • In yet another player profile piece, Sefko opines that backup point guard J.J. Barea may be one of the most underrated Mavericks of all time. Barring injury, Barea will later this season become the seventh player in Mavs history to play in 600 games with the franchise.

Mavericks Notes: Doncic, Spalding, K. Antetokounmpo, Brunson

Coach Rick Carlisle is telling Dallas fans that they’ve got something special in rookie Luka Doncic, relays Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. The Mavericks have been thrilled about the 19-year-old’s potential ever since they were able to engineer a deal with the Hawks to acquire the No. 3 pick. That excitement grew last week as Doncic was in town to play pickup games with a few of his teammates.

“Off of what I’ve seen over the last two days,” Carlisle said, “anybody who doesn’t jump on season tickets now is going to sorely regret it later, that’s all I’ll say.”

Doncic was among the most celebrated players in Europe before entering this year’s draft, being named EuroLeague Most Valuable Player and winning the league’s Final Four MVP honors last season. J.J. Barea, who was among the players at the pickup sessions, came away impressed with his new partner in the Mavericks’ backcourt.

“He’s not quick, but he’s going to play at a good pace, always under control,” Barea said. “He’s tall and can pass over people. He’s a great passer. And he can shoot it, too, so you’ve got to guard him.” 

There’s more tonight from Dallas:

  • The Mavericks gave second-round pick Ray Spalding a four-year contract, but he’ll probably have to prove himself in the G League this season, Sefko writes in a player profile. The 56th player selected, Spalding will be stuck behind free agent addition DeAndre Jordan and a host of veteran big men on the Mavericks’ depth chart.
  • Two-way player Kostas Antetokounmpo has a long way to go to catch up with his famous brother, Sefko notes in another profile. He will be limited to 45 days in the NBA if he remains on the two-way deal. Like Giannis, Kostas possesses tremendous athleticism, but Sefko states that he will have to get stronger and improve his offense to become an effective NBA player.
  • Dallas thinks Jalen Brunson might be the steal of the second round, but playing time could be an issue, Sefko adds in a separate piece. The reigning Wooden Award winner is stuck behind Doncic and Dennis Smith as the starting backcourt and will compete for minutes with Barea and Wesley Matthews.

Southwest Rumors: Gasol, Nowitzki, Lauvergne, Finney-Smith

Spurs center Pau Gasol hopes to play for Spain in the FIBA World Cup next summer, according to a Sportando report. Gasol told the Spanish website El Dia he’ll wait until after the NBA season to make a final decision whether he’ll play for his home country as it attempts to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. “I am about to turn 39,” Gasol said. “I love playing with the national team and I would like to continue, and qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo and help the team with my presence, if I am physically well my belief and my wish is to be in the World Cup.”

We have more from around the Southwest Division:

  • Dirk Nowitzki scrimmaged with his Mavericks teammates for the first time since undergoing ankle surgery in April, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News reports. Coach Rick Carlisle said Nowitzki should be available for training camp, which opens September 21, Sefko continues. Lottery pick Luka Doncic and J.J. Barea were among the other players in the scrimmage, Sefko adds.
  • Former Spurs big man Joffrey Lauvergne said he would have stayed in San Antonio if he didn’t get an offer to play with Turkey’s Fenerbahce, he told Fenerbahce TV in an interview relayed by Sportando. Lauvergne declined a $1.656MM player option to sign a two-year deal overseas with the anticipation of getting more playing time. “I wanted to come back to Europe and the team that I wanted to play is Fenerbahçe,” he said. “I accepted the offer without thinking but if Fenerbahçe didn’t offer me i would probably stay in Spurs for one more season.”
  • Mavericks swingman Dorian Finney-Smith should find more playing time in the frontcourt rather than the crowded backcourt, Sefko writes in a separate story. The club hopes he can develop into a 3-and-D player and he’ll earn more minutes if his outside shot improves, Sefko continues. It’s a pivotal year for Finney-Smith, who will become a restricted free agent after the season if he receives a qualifying offer or unrestricted if the club declines to do so, Sefko adds.