Dirk Nowitzki has confessed his skepticism about what Luka Doncic could, can and will achieve in the NBA when he welcomed him as a partner in the Mavericks. He did so during a conversation with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on All The Smoke, a Showtime podcast, when asked about the generational change in Dallas. These two European talents, two of the best from the Old Continent in the United States league, coincided for a single season, in which they both had time to get along: Doncic was chosen in 2018 and Nowitzki played his last game in 2019 .
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“The end of my career was not pretty. We were having a bad time, there was even a debate about whether to tank or not. We needed a spark to change things and I didn’t think it was this guy,” explains Dirk about the bad sporting moment that the Mavs were going through when they chose Doncic. “When he first came to the training hall he looked like a big player, but I wasn’t sure it was going to work. Is he fast and athletic enough to surpass players like he did in Europe? There were quite a few doubts within the team,” he says.
“Everyone knows that the players meet before the ‘training camp’. About a month before they start. To play together and train with teammates. The boys tried to test him, foul him here and there on the blocks. And then we saw it: he had something special. “He knew how to move, he knew how to play, he knew how to pass to make others shine,” says the German, who highlights that at that moment he changed his mentality. “Then we started to think that he was going to be a very good player, but I also didn’t get to see him at the level he is at now,” he adds.
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The Mavericks selected Luka Doncic with the 3rd overall pick in the 2018 draft in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks for Trae Young. He came from being MVP in the League and Euroleague and winning the double in both competitions with Real Madrid.
In a reflection on the transfer of powers and what role both played, Nowitzki explains how that 2018/19 season happened, the last for him and the first for Luka: “During my last year I was very touched. I missed the first 34 games and couldn’t travel on tour for two months, it was tough, and I didn’t get to spend as much time with him as I would have liked. But it was his time to shine and he did it, he got the ball and ran with it from there.” And their relationship? “We are friends. We hit it off. We’re ok. When I’m in town, we go to dinner. But being a mentor sounds too strong because he doesn’t need me for that. As you can see, he plays like he’s 32 years old. How he reads the game, how he moves around the floor, etc. I would love to say that I have helped him by talking about certain things, but the guy has been a professional almost since he was 11 years old. This is how he plays, nothing can confuse him during a game, he does what he has to do. His improvement has been incredible. I didn’t think he was going to do so well from year to year, but he continues to do so and I’m super happy for him.”
The Mavericks lived with Dirk Nowitzki in the 21st season of the genius in that 2019 in which he decided to stop. He had played in the NBA only with them. Doncic took over from him as leader of the franchise that until now was led by Mark Cuban.
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