Dante Exum credits pre-draft advice he received from Kobe Bryant for helping him withstand the many challenges of his career, writes Mark Medina of Sportskeeda. Exum’s NBA path was derailed by numerous injuries and he spent two seasons playing in Europe before signing with the Mavericks this summer.
“There will be a lot of distractions off the court,” Exum said Bryant told him. “It’s about how you handle those and focus on the court. That’s what’s going to define my career.”
The Australian guard was projected to be a star when Utah selected him with the fifth pick in the 2014 draft. However, his second season was wiped out completely by a torn ACL, and after appearing in 66 games in his third year, he hasn’t been available for more than 42 in a season since then. He had brief stops in Cleveland and Houston, and it appeared his NBA career might be over when he left the league after the 2020/21 season. But Exum reestablished himself in Spain and Serbia and got another chance with Dallas.
“Definitely through the injuries, I stayed motivated to stay that way,” Exum said, referring to Bryant’s advice. “A lot of days were hard. I didn’t want to be there [for rehab]. I felt like life was unfair. But it’s something I have to go through and something that I have to keep pushing through. It made me mentally strong.”
There’s more on the Mavericks:
- Luka Doncic admitted to being exhausted after Saturday’s game, and it wasn’t just because he played 46 minutes and put up incredible numbers with 36 points, 15 rebounds and 18 assists, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Doncic became a father for the first time this week and only got four or five hours of sleep before the game. The team considered giving him a night off, but he insisted on playing because Kyrie Irving, Tim Hardaway Jr. and several other rotation players were already out of action. “It was the happiest day of my life with the baby, but then today’s game was a big roller coaster too,” said Doncic, who led a comeback that included a 30-0 run but fell short. “I’m so sad we didn’t win this game, but man, we gave a big, big effort.”
- Rookie center Dereck Lively II has been a major reason for the Mavericks’ early-season success, notes John Hollinger of The Athletic. Coaches have been urging Lively to take a larger role in the offense, Hollinger adds, and he responded by making all nine of his shots from the field Saturday, scoring 20 points to go with 16 rebounds and seven blocks.
- Maxi Kleber‘s absence with a dislocated toe appears as though it will last for a while longer, as coach Jason Kidd tells Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News that Kleber still hasn’t been cleared to start running (Twitter link). Kidd also expressed concern that Josh Green‘s elbow injury could be a long-term concern.