Luka Doncic

Western Notes: Doncic, Suns, Spurs, Ingram

While Luka Doncic‘s 32 points and nine assists in Tuesday’s Game 2 win over the Clippers were nearly right in line with his regular season numbers, he may have been even more impactful on the other end of the court, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Doncic has never been known for his defense, but he played a key role in limiting L.A.’s shooting percentage on the night to just 36.8%.

“I think his defense has been great this whole series,” head coach Jason Kidd told reporters after his Mavericks evened the series at 1-1. “We know they’re going to put him in pick-and-roll. A couple years ago we saw this, and we had to tell him to participate. But I think he’s participating at a high level on both ends. He’s leading not just on the offensive end but also the defensive end.”

As MacMahon details, the Mavericks had the NBA’s best defensive rating in the final 20 games of the season, and Doncic has made a concerted effort to improve his individual defense. The Clippers repeatedly attacked him on Tuesday, but they made just 2-of-17 shots with Luka as the primary defender, per ESPN.

“I accept it,” Doncic said of the Clippers’ strategy. “It gets me going on defensive end too. That’s fine. I think I played good defense today. I’ve just got to stay locked in.”

Here’s more from around the West:

  • The Suns will need from their three stars if they hope to pull of a first-round comeback against Minnesota, writes Baxter Holmes of ESPN. Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal combined for just 52 points in Game 2, 20 points below their average regular season total, and turned the ball over 12 times. “Their physicality tarnishes our ability to get into our sets faster,” Beal said on Tuesday. “They do a really good job of just denying [Durant], denying [Booker], being physical with them. [Anthony Edwards] is picking me up full [court]. They’re just making us work before we even get into our sets.”
  • The Spurs have done a good job stockpiling extra draft picks, but now they’ll have to decide how best to use them, writes Nick Moyle of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required). As Moyle outlines, San Antonio could have as many as eight first-round picks and eight more second-rounders in the next four drafts. Given the young talent already on the roster and the desire to add complementary pieces around Victor Wembanyama, it won’t make sense for the Spurs to hang onto – and use – all those selections, so some could become trade chips.
  • After being benched down the stretch of the Pelicans‘ first play-in game vs. the Lakers, Brandon Ingram came up big last Friday vs. Sacramento, scoring a team-high 24 points to help New Orleans clinch a playoff berth. However, Ingram contributed just 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting in Game 1 against Oklahoma City. Noting that the Pelicans will need more from the former All-Star going forward, William Guillory of The Athletic explores how they might get him going.

Mavs Notes: Doncic, Irving, Kidd, Gafford, Adjustments

Luka Doncic believes he needs to be more assertive in the Mavericks’ first-round series against the Clippers. Los Angeles jumped to a 26-point halftime lead and cruised to a 109-97 win in Game 1 on Sunday.

“I just gotta stay aggressive. That was my bad,” Doncic said, per Mike Curtis of the Dallas Morning News. “In the first half, I wasn’t aggressive enough. I just gotta stay aggressive and find the open man.”

His backcourt partner has somewhat of an explanation for the team’s 30-point first half.

“We knew we were going to have to knock off some rust,” Kyrie Irving said. “Us as a team, we have guys that have missed three weeks, two weeks. [Tim Hardaway Jr.] not being with us for the past few days of preparation. I’m not saying those things are excuses, but internally, those things matter for the importance of what we’re getting ready for.”

We have more on the Mavs:

  • Jason Kidd, whose job security may hinge on how the team fares in the playoffs, had a simple explanation for the Game 1 defeat, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “They were physical and we were passive,” Kidd said. Dallas’ frontcourt was especially ineffective and Daniel Gafford, who tweaked his ankle during the contest, takes the blame. “I just didn’t come out ready to play, in all honesty,” he said. “I have to be better when it comes to me being a starter on the floor. I have to be able to be better in areas that I’ve always succeeded in throughout the regular season. I’ve got to come out and I’ve got to play playoff basketball, not what I showed out (Sunday).”
  • The Mavs failed to make adjustments on Sunday until it was too late, Tim Cato of The Athletic opines. It ultimately resulted in a wasted opportunity, since the Clippers are playing without Kawhi Leonard for the time being.
  • It may not have shown up in the opener, but Irving could be the ideal postseason partner for Doncic, Cato writes. When all goes well, the two guards might be the two best players on the floor for either side.

Doncic, Gilgeous-Alexander, Jokic Named MVP Finalists

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Nuggets center Nikola Jokic were revealed on Sunday as the finalists for the Most Valuable Player award, according to the NBA (Twitter link).

Doncic led the league in scoring (33.9 points per game) and finished second in assists (9.8) while also grabbing 9.2 rebounds per contest. Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder to the top seed in the Western Conference by averaging 30.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.0 steals per contest. Jokic, who is widely considered the favorite to win his third MVP trophy, averaged 26.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 9.0 assists per night.

The NBA also announced the finalists for six other postseason awards. Here are the finalists for all of those awards:

Most Valuable Player

Sixth Man

Defensive Player of the Year

Most Improved Player

Note: Sengun appeared in just 63 games but was eligible for award consideration based on the season-ending injury exception described in our glossary entry on the 65-game rule.

Coach of the Year

  • Mark Daigneault, Thunder
  • Chris Finch, Timberwolves
  • Jamahl Mosley, Magic

Rookie of the Year

Clutch Player of the Year

Southwest Notes: Cuban, Doncic, Sengun, Pelicans, Spurs

Confirming prior reporting from Forbes, Marc Stein (Substack link) cites sources who say that Mark Cuban‘s sale agreement with Miriam Adelson and Patrick Dumont stipulates that the Mavericks‘ new majority owners have the option to buy an additional 20% of the franchise in four years.

For the time being, Cuban has retained control of 27% of the team and reportedly still maintains a voice in the personnel decisions, though he’s no longer the final decision-maker. However, if Adelson and Dumont exercise that option a few years from now, the extra shares would come out of Cuban’s stake in the team, reducing his holdings to below 10%.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Luka Doncic likely won’t finish higher than second in MVP voting this season, but the fact that he’s legitimately in the conversation is more important to the Mavericks than him actually winning the award, opines Tim Cato of The Athletic. As Cato explains, this version of Doncic raises Dallas’ ceiling and makes the team a bona fide contender.
  • Alperen Sengun (ankle/knee) won’t return for either of the Rockets‘ final two games of the season, Kelly Iko of The Athletic confirms (via Twitter). Sengun is a candidate for this year’s Most Improved Player award, but because he only appeared in 63 games, an independent doctor would need to rule that his injury is likely to sideline him through at least May 31 in order for him to be eligible for award consideration.
  • Although New Orleans has yet to clinch its playoff spot, the team looks better than it has in years and is on track to win the most games it has in a season since being rebranded as the Pelicans in 2013. James Herbert of CBS Sports checks in on the Pelicans to get a sense of why this year’s team is more dangerous than the one we’ve seen in recent seasons, as well as what the next steps are for the franchise.
  • Victor Wembanyama has been everything the Spurs hoped he’d be in his first year in the NBA and figures to only get better going forward, but will San Antonio be able to build a contender around the young star? Isaac Levy-Rubinett of The Ringer explores that question, considering the players the Spurs already have on their roster, their draft assets, and a potential trade target.

Mavericks Notes: Luka, Kyrie, Harrison, Kidd, More

During Wednesday’s matchup in Miami, which was a blowout win for Dallas, members of the Mavericks organization wore shirts saying “Pravi MVP,” which translates from Slovenian to English as real or true MVP, referencing the excellent season by Luka Doncic, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.

Doncic, who has made the All-NBA First Team each of the past four seasons, is a top contender for the MVP award. However, it’s “generally expected” that Nuggets center Nikola Jokic will claim the trophy for the third time in the past four seasons, Reynolds notes.

While he may not win his first MVP in 2023/24, Doncic’s coaches and teammates certainly think he deserves it.

He’s the real MVP. … I think his resume is better than anybody else’s resume,” forward P.J. Washington said. “I don’t feel like there’s a complete argument that anybody had a better season this year.”

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • Eight-time All-Star Kyrie Irving earned a $1MM bonus on Wednesday for a combination of playing 50-plus games and the Mavs winning their 50th game, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The bonus was considered unlikely since Dallas only won 38 games last season. As Marks observes, Irving’s cap hit for 2023/24 will now be $38.04MM, and his ’24/25 figure will be adjusted up to $41MM. Irving has been instrumental in the team’s success this season, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link), who notes that Dallas is 39-19 when Irving plays, including 24-7 over his past 31 appearances.
  • In an interview with Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (subscription required), Mavs general manager Nico Harrison discussed a number of topics, including the job performance of head coach Jason Kidd and his staff. Harrison praised Kidd, who reportedly has one more year left on his contract and hopes to sign an extension with Dallas this offseason. “The coaches have done a great job,” Harrison told Townsend. “One, when you have two superstar players, first and foremost, getting those guys to play together at a high level and respect each other’s play and to play together, you always have to take a little bit off your game for the success of the team. To be able to do that is remarkable. Jason and his staff have done that at a high level. We’re not successful if that doesn’t happen.”
  • Regarding the trade-deadline acquisitions of Washington and center Daniel Gafford, Harrison said that while the two players were high on Dallas’ priority list, the front office was also working on multiple other deals at the time in case talks fell apart. He said he’s been pleased with how the two veterans have fit in thus far, according to Townsend. “I think if you go back to last year, the exit interview that we did, admittedly we didn’t do what we wanted to do,” Harrison said as part of a larger quote. “But we didn’t have the right players around those two guys (Doncic and Irving). We feel like we started that during the summer, getting longer, getting more athletic, getting better defensively. And then also in the draft with (Dereck) Lively. And then we just continue. The message hasn’t changed. The goal hasn’t changed. Now you do it with P.J., now you do it with Gafford. We’ve just continued with building it the same way that we talked about.”

Mavs Notes: Washington, Williams, Luka, First-Round Pick, Kyrie

Two months after being traded from the Hornets to the Mavericks, P.J. Washington returned home on Tuesday night, relishing the opportunity to see his family and to play in front of the fans in Charlotte, according to Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer.

“It was great, just being able to cheer for me one last time in this arena,” Washington said. “It meant the world to me. Being drafted here and obviously (having spent) my whole career here. So, it just meant a lot for sure.”

It has been a whirlwind couple months for Washington, who is still adjusting to playing for a new NBA team after spending the first four-and-a-half seasons of his career with the Hornets. But he has no complaints about getting the opportunity to play alongside stars Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving for a Mavericks team that clinched its spot in the playoffs with Tuesday’s blowout victory over Charlotte.

“It’s been great,” Washington said. “It’s two of the best to ever play the game, so it makes it a lot easier for me. They bring so much attention, which opens up the game for a lot of different people. So, they’ve made it a lot easier for me for sure.”

Head coach Jason Kidd appreciates what Washington has brought to the club: “(He has) the ability to play both sides — offense and defense. You could see when one of the guys are out — Luka, Ky — he’s stepped up for us. He’s given us an offensive spark. And then when you look at the defensive end, he’s been able to guard 1-5. He’s helped us here since March 7 be the No. 1 defensive team in the league. And he’s a pro. He comes to work every day, never complains, and he’s one of the few that when he runs out, comes out of the game, he gives you five. And that’s just a character thing that he has. He’s about the team and he just wants to win.”

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • While there were some rumors that Hornets forward Grant Williams wore out his welcome in Dallas or rubbed Doncic the wrong way, Luka said he has no issues with his former teammate. “Grant is a great guy,” Doncic said. “We have a good relationship. Outside, some people say we don’t. But we have (one).”
  • Williams has been playing better in Charlotte than he did in Dallas, making the deadline deal a success so far for both the Mavericks and Hornets, writes Boone. “Yeah, I think when you look at the trade it is a win-win,” Kidd said. “Grant’s doing an incredible job here (in Charlotte), You look at playing the five or playing whatever position they’ve asked him to play. He’s shooting the ball, he’s making decisions, he’s posting up, he’s guarding the five on the other end. So, I think he’s done an incredible job since the trade.”
  • Having clinched a playoff spot, the Mavericks will send their 2024 first-round pick to the Knicks, closing the book on the blockbuster 2019 Kristaps Porzingis trade, notes Bobby Marks of ESPN (via Twitter). Dallas’ pick currently projects to be No. 25 overall — a year ago the Mavs tanked their final game of the season to ensure they’d avoid sending their top-10 protected first-rounder to New York.
  • After last season’s second-half collapse, there were some questions about how the backcourt pairing of Doncic and Irving would mesh going forward, but the duo has thrived in 2023/24. According to Doncic, having Irving in Dallas has been a “blessing,” per Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). “Obviously on the court everybody knows what kind of player he is,” Doncic said. “Off the court he helps me a lot — not just me but the whole team. He knows how to win the championship. He’s a very humble guy. Great guy.”

Southwest Notes: Morant, JJJ, Bane, G. Williams, Mavs, Williamson

A Tennessee judge ruled Monday that Grizzlies star Ja Morant properly raised self-defense in a lawsuit filed by a teenager he punched in July 2022, ESPN’s Baxter Holmes reports. The altercation occurred during a pickup game at Morant’s home.

The judge ruled the Grizzlies’ guard “enjoys a presumption of civil immunity” under Tennessee’s self-defense immunity statute and that the burden of proof shifts to his accuser, Joshua Holloway, whose legal team must prove that Morant didn’t act in self-defense. A trial had been scheduled for late April, Holmes writes, but is now expected to be pushed back to a later date.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said there’s a “good chance” Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane won’t play again this season, Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal tweets. Jackson’s current injury is listed as right quad tendonitis, while Bane has a lumbar disc bulge. Both Jackson (22.5 points per game) and Bane (23.7) are averaging career highs in scoring.
  • Hornets forward Grant Williams says he has harbors no ill will toward the Mavericks for trading him after Dallas added him in a sign-and-trade last offseason, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News tweets. “No hard feelings on my end or, I think, their end,” he said. “We communicated well throughout the process. (Dallas GM) Nico (Harrison), I respect those guys a lot from an honesty perspective.”
  • Even Mavericks teammates marvel at the ability of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, according to The Athletic’s Tim Cato. “I never play NBA 2K, so I don’t know if there’s a self-created player who does stuff like they do,” Maxi Kleber said. “But it’s just incredible what they do.”
  • Pelicans forward Zion Williamson took note that teams were seeking him out defensively and he’s playing harder at that end of the floor, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune said. “The other teams were trying to hunt me on defense,” Williamson said. “I was watching the film, and I didn’t like that.” Williamson had five blocks against Phoenix on Sunday.

Injury Updates: Mitchell, Okoro, Luka, Sengun, Pelicans

The struggling Cavaliers, who have lost seven of their past 10 games, will be without leading scorer Donovan Mitchell on Sunday vs. the Clippers, according to Chris Fedor of, who tweets that Mitchell is out due to injury management related to his knee.

On the plus side, Cavaliers forward Isaac Okoro is on track to return after missing the past four games with a toe injury (Twitter link via Fedor).

At 46-32, the Cavs still hold the No. 3 spot in the East, but they’re only a half-game ahead of both Orlando and New York, so they’re in danger of losing home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

Here are a few more injury-related updates from around the NBA:

  • After missing Friday’s win over Golden State, Mavericks star Luka Doncic (right knee soreness) will be back in action on Sunday vs. Houston, the team confirmed (via Twitter). A strong finish in the season’s final week would ensure that the 47-30 Mavs secure a top-six seed in the West — they’re currently at No. 5.
  • Even with the Rockets slipping out of the play-in race, center Alperen Sengun hasn’t given up hope of returning to the court this season, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). Sengun, who injured his right ankle and knee on March 10, estimated that he’s about 60% recovered, per Feigen, and has begun “light mobility work,” according to head coach Ime Udoka. He hasn’t been ruled out for the season, but it would be a bit surprising if he returned to just play a game or two after Houston is officially eliminated from postseason contention. “Maybe he gets on the court, but it’s nothing we discussed yet,” Udoka said.
  • Pelicans wing Naji Marshall, who left Friday’s game with a left shoulder contusion, didn’t practice on Saturday and is considered questionable to play in Sunday’s game in Phoenix, tweets Erin Summers of Bally Sports. Zion Williamson (left finger contusion) and Jose Alvarado (right oblique strain) are also listed as questionable, but they both practiced on Saturday.

Injury Notes: Luka, Warriors, Zion, Ingram, Young, Turner

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic was ruled out for Friday’s matchup with Golden State due to right knee soreness, as first reported by Marc Stein (via Twitter). Sources tell Stein there’s optimism that Doncic will return on Sunday vs. Houston.

The injury “shouldn’t be long term,” head coach Jason Kidd said (Twitter link via ESPN’s Tim MacMahon).

It will be the 10th missed game this season for Doncic, which will hurt his chances of claiming his first MVP award — frontrunner Nikola Jokic has only missed three games. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the other primary candidate for the award, will miss his seventh game of 2023/24 on Sunday in Charlotte.

Mavs big man Maxi Kleber, who played 21 minutes in yesterday’s win over Atlanta, is also out Friday with back spasms, the team announced (via Twitter).

The Warriors will also be shorthanded for Friday’s matchup in Dallas, which is the second of a back-to-back for both clubs. Andrew Wiggins is out with left ankle soreness, while Jonathan Kuminga — who warmed up with the intent of playing — will miss his sixth straight game with knee tendinitis, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter links).

Here are a few more injury-related notes from around the NBA:

  • Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, who is dealing with a left finger contusion, was considered a game-time decision for Friday’s contest vs. San Antonio. However, he was later ruled out (Twitter link via the Pels). Prior to Friday’s game, head coach Willie Green also provided an injury update on Brandon Ingram, who is currently sidelined with a left knee bone contusionHe’s jogging on the treadmill,” Green said, per Christian Clark of (Twitter link). “He’s in the weight room. Other than that, we don’t have anything new to report.” Green confirmed a recent report that New Orleans is optimistic about Ingram returning before the regular season ends, Clark adds.
  • On his podcast (YouTube link), Hawks point guard Trae Young provided an update on his rehab from hand surgery, as Brad Rowland relays (via Twitter). “I got another call with the doctor next Monday,” Young said of when he could return. ” … Hopefully next week I can make a fist and I can get out of this cast. And then I can play. So hopefully next week.”
  • Pacers center Myles Turner suffered a dislocated right index finger in Monday’s victory over Brooklyn, which caused him to miss Wednesday’s rematch with the Nets, but he was back in the starting lineup on Friday against Oklahoma City, the team announced (Twitter link). Turner has dealt with several injuries over the course of his career but he has been relatively healthy in ’23/24, appearing in 73 of 78 games.

Southwest Notes: Zion, Luka, Kyrie, Clarke, Spurs

The Pelicans got some good news on Thursday. As Christian Clark of writes, Zion Williamson exited Wednesday’s loss to Orlando with a finger injury, but appears to have avoided a significant injury. Head coach Willie Green said the former No. 1 overall pick is considered day-to-day, with his status for Friday’s game up in the air.

Z is good,” Green said at Thursday’s practice. “X-rays were negative. Everything structurally was fine. Just some soreness in his finger.”

New Orleans has dropped four of its past five games to fall to 45-31, the No. 7 seed in the West. Only two games separate the No. 5 Mavericks from the No. 9 Lakers in the hotly-contested conference, Clark notes.

Williamson, 23, recently became eligible for postseason awards after appearing in his 65th game this season.

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • When asked whether the Mavericks would consider resting Luka Doncic and/or Kyrie Irving in the final few games before the postseason, head coach Jason Kidd said it would likely depend on the standings, per Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). “As we go forward, somewhere over the weekend, we could talk about where we stand,” Kidd said as part of a larger quote. “ … But right now it’s full go and those guys are playing.” With seven games remaining, Dallas is a half-game ahead of No. 7 New Orleans.
  • Grizzlies big man Brandon Clarke had an uncertain future after tearing his left Achilles tendon in March 2023. However, the 27-year-old forward/center has looked good in his first four games of 2023/24, according to Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal, which is an encouraging sign for both the player and the team. Clarke, who is in the first season of a four-year, $50MM extension, is averaging 12.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 1.3 BPG while shooting 60.5% from the floor in 21.0 MPG.
  • The Spurs have one of the worst records in the league at 18-58, but they have gone 7-10 over their past 17 games and head coach Gregg Popovich said watching the team progress has been a “real joy,” writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “They have gotten better and better as the year goes along,” Popovich said. “In the beginning, it was weird. Nobody knew what to do around Victor (Wembanyama). He didn’t know what to do around them. They had never played before and with someone of Victor’s size. So it took time, but they are much more comfortable now.