While some wondered how he might adjust to playing in the NBA, Luka Doncic has largely silenced critics and rewarded the Dallas Mavericks for trading up to select him with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Impressive as he’s been, two of Doncic’s more pedestrian performances have come against the Los Angeles Lakers. Though, it’s hardly diminished his talent in head coach Luke Walton’s eyes.
“He’s good. I mean, he gets it at every level on the court,” Walton said before the Lakers’ comeback win against the Mavs. ”
The step-back threes, he hit a half-courter against Houston like a regular jump shot, he’s constantly finding shooters on the weak side and not just finding them, he’s zipping the ball over there and putting it in their shooting pocket so it’s a rhythm shot for them. He’s an impressive rookie.
“Any time a rookie can come in and play as well as he’s playing, I think it’s really impressive. This is still a grown man’s league and the difference when you get to this level is huge. To do what he’s doing is very impressive. I think it shows that he’s also played pro for a while before he got here. The moment, the crowds and playing against these other stars doesn’t seem to really faze him much.”
Doncic’s early success has intensified a spotlight that was already on him. His rabid following is a bit more intense than that of most rookies but it’s not something the 19-year-old searches for.
“He has no interest in the attention, that’s obvious,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said of Doncic’s demeanor. “He’s been getting it for a long time because he’s been a special player for a long time. If you watch on the floor, his teammates really like him and like playing with him.
“They have great respect for him as a rookie. The whole thing about all the attention is something he’s very uncomfortable with. Our guys know that, and we’re just trying to get better as a basketball team.”
The Lakers held Doncic to 6 points on 2-for-13 shooting, missing all five 3-pointers. “Watching tape on him, what he’s been doing, he’s huge for that team,” Walton said. “That’s the second time where I think Brandon (Ingram) has just done a nice job of using his length and keeping him somewhat uncomfortable.”
Doncic did have 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks and 3 steals. His blocks came on consecutive shot attempts at the rim by LeBron James. “He actually came out of nowhere to get the double block on me,” James explained. “It wasn’t even his man, he covered for his man. I told him, I said, ‘I didn’t even see you.'”
James also revealed he purposely charged into Doncic, who has openly discussed the 16-year veteran being an idol of his. “I made sure I charged into him on that one,” James said with a smile. “I did that on purpose.”