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NBA WEEK: Doncic turning into Westbrook as Mavericks' future clouded

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Expert
30th December, 2021
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Dallas Mavericks are hoping Luka Doncic will be the next Dirk Nowitzki but the way he’s tracking, he’s turning into the next Russell Westbrook.

In a somewhat good but mostly bad way.

He’s putting up a lot of points, racking up assists and rebounds but not necessarily getting the best out of his teammates or helping them in defence.

Doncic is a multi-talented player who is on course to become one of the most dominant players in the NBA.

Like Westbrook during his decade-long stint at Oklahoma City, he has taken control of the team and his influence on owner Mark Cuban is greater than anyone.

That much can be seen by the off-season departure of the Mavs’ long-term championship-winning coach Rick Carlisle, who butted heads with the All Star playmaker.

Nowitzki spent two decades in Dallas and led them to the 2011 NBA title – Doncic will be at the franchise for a long time but his chances of winning a ring are not as rosy as his predecessor as the face of the franchise.

He seems destined to follow Westbrook’s lead in putting up a lot of individual stats but does not appear to have the unselfish outlook when it comes to crunch time.

A bit like Allen Iverson during his glory years with Philadelphia, stars who don’t know how to delegate when they get double-teamed often fall short in the playoffs.

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Even the Greatest Of All Time, Michael Jordan, faced a similar problem over the course of his first six seasons with the Bulls before Phil Jackson had the chutzpah to put him in his place to tell him to trust his teammates.

It’s hard for superstar talents to pass to a wide open role player when they’re hard-wired to believe they can put the ball in the basket even when the entire defence is targeting them.

Doncic has shown no inclination towards embracing a co-operative approach at Dallas.

He still thinks it’s better to buy someone fish rather than teaching them how to fish.

There was criticism in some quarters when Doncic didn’t make the NBA’s Top 75 list to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the league despite only being in his fourth season.

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It would have been way too premature to include him on the list. If his career trajectory continues he will probably win an MVP like Westbrook and be a shoo-in when the centenary list is announced 25 years from now but as it stands, he was not worthy of such accolades.

It’s still only year four in his career and the Slovenian star has time on his side if he’s willing to adapt.

He also needs to get in elite shape – his fitness has been questionable at best each year and he needs to adopt a LeBron James-style regime to truly reach his potential.

The other major issue at the Mavericks is building a supporting cast that will complement Doncic, not one that simply compliments him when he makes a play.

Knicks fans were aghast when their much-maligned front office traded Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas in 2019 for under-performing lottery pick Dennis Smith jnr and a couple of future first-round selections.

But it’s clear New York got the better of that deal. Porzingis has been injured or mediocre for the most part in Dallas. He’s had occasional stretches where he’s done well but he then gets sidelined with yet another injury or goes missing at both ends of the court.

Doncic had been sidelined for five games and has then been forced out for the past week after becoming one of the 100-plus players out due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols.

Dallas dropped to 16-18 and a share of eighth in the Western Conference on Thursday after losing 95-94 to the Kangs (not a typo) in Sacramento.

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Porzingis is unable to step up when their marquee man is out – he tallied 24 in SacTown but unheralded guard Jalen Brunson was their leading scorer with 25.

With picks owed to the Knicks and Porzingis attraction little to no trade value it’s going to be hard for Dallas to improve their roster around Doncic even if they deal veterans like Tim Hardaway jnr or Dwight Powell.

And with the jury well and truly still out on Carisle’s replacement as head coach, Jason Kidd, after ill-fated stints at Brooklyn and Milwaukee, the future is clouded in Dallas.

In what can only be termed as a reverse Scooby-Doo plot, the meddling Kidd didn’t get away with his dastardly schemes at the Nets or Bucks.

One bright spot for the Mavericks recently has been the improvement in output from Boomers Olympic squad member Josh Green.

The second-year guard chalked up 10 assists, nine points and four rebounds in a win over Portland earlier this week.

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Aussies in the Big Show

Jock Landale’s minutes at San Antonio are climbing steadily and the former Melbourne United star’s repaying the faith of record-breaking coach Gregg Popovich.

The Boomers big man has played at least 10 minutes in the Spurs’ last five games and has averaged 10.6 points per game during that stretch.

Landale’s highlight was a statline of 18 points, five boards and three assists in a win over Detroit earlier this week.

“He’s an intuitive player,” Popovich said. “He understands what’s going on. He’s good with the ball, a good passer and doesn’t try to do things he’s not capable of doing. He plays a wise game.”

The 26-year-old rookie is showing he belongs in the most elite of company.

Weekend must-watch

Saturday – Spurs @ Grizzlies – 12pm AEDT

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With Jock Landale getting plenty of burn why not tune into San Antonio. Ja Moran is back for Memphis who continue to shock the league by rising to a clear fourth place in the Western Conference standings.

Sunday – Warriors @ Jazz – 1pm AEDT

Golden State and Utah could be squaring off in the playoffs out west this season. Steph Curry’s team has tailed off slightly in recent weeks while the Jazz have kept nipping at their heels.

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