Luka Doncic’s All-Star debut marks monumental night for Mavericks franchise
প্রকাশিত তারিখ : February 17, 2020 | আপডেট সময়: 1:03 PM
CHICAGO – It was hard to tell when the realization sank in for 20-year-old Luka Doncic that he was making his NBA All-Star debut.
Perhaps it was two hours before Sunday night’s tipoff, when Team LeBron gathered for its official photo, with Doncic seated to the left of captain LeBron James.
Or maybe it was while Doncic nervously swayed back and forth, again next to James, as Chaka Khan sang the National Anthem. Moments later the game tipped off, and the Mavericks’ Doncic became the sixth-youngest starter in the game’s 69-year history.
His final numbers — eight points and four rebounds while playing 17 minutes of Team LeBron’s 157-155 victory over Team Giannis at the United Center – won’t be as indelible as his memories of competing with and against basketball’s best players on this mega-stage.
It was amazing,” said Doncic, adding that he didn’t feel nervousness. The first five on my team are probably the top five players (in the world). It was great to be with them.
At halftime someone sent me a picture from four years ago, me and Russell Westbrook. Now we were together on the same team, so it was kind of amazing.
The highlight of Doncic’s night was a 27-second stretch of the third quarter during which he made back-to-back 3-pointers.For the Mavericks franchise, this was a monumental night. Never, with apologies to Mavericks icon Dirk Nowitzki, has the franchise had a player as popular as Doncic.
As a rookie last season he received the third-most All-Star fan votes, behind only James and Antetokounmpo. This season Doncic received the second-most votes, 6,111,735, behind only James’ 6,275,459.
Watching a 20-year-old’s dream come true in real time on a world stage is exhilarating and humbling all at the same time,” Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “Couldn’t be prouder of Luka and all the hard work he’s put in to have this day become a reality.
Doncic’s NBA Rookie of the Year emergence last season helped return the franchise to relevance, even though the Mavericks haven’t won a playoff series since their 2011 NBA championship, or even been to the postseason since 2016.
Doncic’s worldwide popularity, and therefore importance to the league, was evident throughout this All-Star weekend, in which he met former President Barack Obama and was introduced by actor comedian Bill Murray and had a five-story likeness of himself adorn a building on Madison Street, one block from the United Center.In those respects, this All-Star weekend was uncharted ground for Doncic and the 40-year-old Dallas franchise, but, for one Mavericks legend, it was a full-circle moment.The Lakers’ staff coached Team LeBron, which meant that Lakers assistant, Naismith Hall of Famer and former Maverick Jason Kidd was able to spend a lot of quality time with Doncic.
Point guards Doncic and Kidd are the only Mavericks to win Rookie of the Year, with Kidd sharing that honor with Grant Hill in 1995. The following season, Kidd was voted by fans to start the 1996 All-Star Game in San Antonio.
Until Doncic this year, no other Maverick had been voted to start an All-Star Game, although Nowitzki was an injury replacement starter in 2007 and 2010.
It’s kind of cool,” Kidd said. “I guess history could repeat itself in the sense that the Mavericks got a special player. He understands the game at a very high level. He’s just good to watch. I’m a big fan.
Kidd was drafted by the Mavericks with the No. 2 overall pick in 1994, traded two years later, but returned in 2008 and played a major role in the championship run.
Doncic said he enjoyed getting to know Kidd the past few days.
It was great,” Doncic said. “He’s a really funny guy. “He’s a legend, so I can learn a lot of things from him.
The most memorable, and humorous, Doncic-Kidd moment occurred on Friday, when they took part in an NBA Cares event, during which Obama made a surprise visit.
Obama approached a table where Kidd and Doncic were sitting with children, coloring book markers. Obama jokingly told Doncic that he should follow Kidd’s example when it comes to passing, but not so much shooting.It reminded Kidd of when the Mavericks visited the White House after winning the NBA title and Obama teasingly told Kidd that Derrick Rose, who at the time starred for Obama’s favorite team, the Bulls, was a better point guard because he could score.
Kidd said he told Obama on Friday that “Luka already can shoot; he doesn’t have to worry about that. He’s ahead of the game.”
Kidd calls Doncic “a special human being, on and off the court. When you talk to him, you kind of forget that he’s 20 years old, the way he carries himself. He understands that when he takes the floor, guys are coming after him. He relishes in that challenge. He’s just special. There’s no way around it.
In his All-Star debut in 1996, 22-year-old Kidd scored seven points and dealt 10 assists, but what he most remembers is being in awe of teammates like Charles Barkley and facing Michael Jordan, the game’s MVP.
“I was in awe,” Kidd said. “It’s a moment you never forget. These All-Star moments this week, Luka will never forget.
And this is one of many for him.
After last season’s All-Star weekend, Doncic took a couple of days off and traveled to Mexico with his girlfriend, Anamaria Goltes, for sun and rest.
This year, though, the 33-22 Mavericks return to practice on Wednesday, so Doncic’s rest might be short before diving back in for the regular-season’s final 27 games – and, most likely, the playoffs.
I can’t wait to go back,” he said. “Maybe to Dallas. I don’t know.
Don’t know yet?
I know,” he said, coyly. “I’m going to keep that with me.
His next big milestone? In 11 days he will turn 21 while the Mavericks are in Miami to play the Heat.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m enjoying every day of my life.”
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