DALLAS — With temperatures finally falling under 100 degrees in the Metroplex and the State Fair of Texas looming, another Fall benchmark is on the horizon. The return of NBA basketball and the start of megastar Luka Doncic’s sixth year in Dallas is now merely weeks away.
The Mavs will be putting some miles on Mark Cuban’s jet before the team can get to their 2023-2024 season opener versus Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs. While training camp will open in Dallas on Sept. 27, a sixteen-hour, 8,000-mile trip in early October will land the team in the Middle East for pre-season matchups in the Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi.
Long travel is nothing new for the Slovenian superstar Doncic, who recently wrapped participation in the 2023 FIBA World Cup. Playing in the Japan-based group, the Doncic-led Slovenia squad finished 7th in the competition, with fellow Dirk Nowitzki heir Dennis Schroder and Germany taking top billing.
Doncic averaged 30 points on just over 18 shot attempts per contest during the tournament, along with eight rebounds and seven assists during the campaign. For his effort, he was named one of the top players and earned All-Star Five recognition along with Schroder, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Anthony Edwards, and Bogdan Bogdanovic.
While Doncic performed on the court at his NBA level, his penchant for fighting with the officials also accompanied him on his intercontinental stay. Doncic was ejected from the matchup versus Canada for speaking out on no-calls on an aggressive defense deployed against his team. As much as Doncic has shown to embrace Dallas, representing your country hits different. Missing out on a chance to call themselves World Champions brought out the troublesome side of Doncic, one that he has tried earnestly to control in the league.
Still, reining in the backtalk can only go so far as the emotion derived from competition at the highest level also drives Doncic’s persistence and hunger for accomplishment.
Doncic’s emotional outbursts and continuous feuds with the whistle holders have ascended him to the top of the technical foul leaders in the last few seasons, joining agitators like Draymond Green and Dillon Brooks among the troublemakers in the league. However, those players have earned their reputation by playing bully ball, picking up techs as part of maintaining their defensive aura.
Doncic’s penchant for letting his frustrations out with calls he feels he deserves based on his league standing still costs his team free points, regardless of intent. For what it's worth, Doncic has hovered between third and sixth in the league for total free-throw attempts since his second year, so he is assuredly taking more bumps than most in the lane along the way while also getting his fair share of calls.
The unprecedented start to Doncic’s career sometimes makes one forget he is still only 24. Doncic’s road to the NBA went through multi-sport powerhouse Real Madrid. The rigors of Liga ACB and EuroLeague on a then teenaged Doncic prepared him well for his foray in the States.
His first season in the NBA saw him barely miss an All-Star selection before he nabbed the Wilt Chamberlain Trophy as the 2018-2019 Rookie of the Year. As he quickly became a star in the league, the calls from officials that usually benefit those stars were slow to follow. Doncic led the NBA in Triple-Doubles (17) in just his second year and has been named ALL-NBA every year since his rookie season. Adding a notch for Technical Foul leader on those stats seems a detriment to his otherworldly play.
While his personal success has been undisputed, the team around him has been hit or miss. Losing is the ultimate demoralizer, and something that clearly affects Doncic’s behavior. The star guards’ Usage Percentage has been first or second in the league every year since his sophomore season, which means Doncic has more opportunities to impact the match-up.
The hope for 2023-2024 is for Kyrie Irving and the new Dallas additions to ease the burden on Doncic and alleviate some of that internal frustration, while keeping him in the lineup where he is most effective and away from the referee’s radar.
Do you think Luka Doncic will bring his International dominance to the 2023-2024 season for Dallas? Share your thoughts with Irvin on Twitter @Twittirv.
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