Unveiling Luka Doncic’s Flaws: A Journey to Championship Glory

Unveiling Luka Doncic’s Flaws: A Journey to Championship Glory

Jun 14, 2024, 12:45 ET

Doncic’s flaws have been exposed and, like the legends before him, he will have to conquer them to become champion.

IN AUGUST 2021Jason Kidd had been coaching the Dallas Mavericks for just over a month when he flew to Slovenia to meet with Luka Doncic, the 22-year-old superstar who would determine his success or failure as a coach.

Kidd had been a superstar in his own right as a player and played alongside the greatest Maverick of them all, Dirk Nowitzki, when Dallas won an NBA championship in 2011. He guided a young Giannis Antetokounmpo as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks and… . – as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers – helped an aging LeBron James win a championship in 2020.

In other words, he has had a lot of experience with transcendent stars. Each one of them was different, of course. But Kidd has told everyone the same thing.

“I’m not here to argue or fight with you. I’m here to help you,” Kidd told ESPN in 2022. “And I will always tell you the truth.”

In the three seasons he has coached Doncic, Kidd has told him several truths: that he needed to stop making enemies of referees with persistent complaints; that he needed to make a more consistent effort on defense; and that he needed to get in better shape to be at his best when his team needed him.

Luka Doncic, estrella de los Dallas Mavericks. Tim Heitman/Getty Images

Kidd has said these things publicly and privately. Doncic’s teammates in Dallas and on the Slovenian team have also done it.

Kidd has also strengthened him, praising Doncic’s preternatural talent, competitiveness and toughness. He has marveled at the basketball knowledge and skills that have made him a five-time All-Star and MVP runner-up.

The praise is as consistent as the hard truths he has spoken. So when Kidd provided an unvarnished assessment of the ways the Boston Celtics have exploited lingering holes in Doncic’s game to build a 3-0 lead in the 2024 NBA Finals, it could only be interpreted as a final opportunity to get to Doncic before the Mavericks’ season potentially ends in Game 4 on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET on ABC, ESPN Deportes).

“For great players, you have to not understand how to be successful at the highest level. This is the highest level,” Kidd said Thursday. “The history is there for us to learn from, when you look at the great players and their struggles: (Michael Jordan) and the struggles he had against Detroit, Magic Johnson’s struggles, LeBron (James) the first time.”

It is a testament to Doncic that at 25 years old he can already be put in the same sentence as all-time greats like Jordan, Johnson and James. But he also talks about the hill he still has to climb.

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Jordan had to learn to trust his teammates and elevate them to become champions, to solve the so-called “Jordan Rules”, the selfish game that the Detroit Pistons used to provoke. Johnson and James had to become better outside shooters to force defenses to play them directly and create space for their teammates to operate.

Like Doncic, none of these flaws were a secret. In any case, they were endlessly debated and criticized until each player finally overcame his flaws and won a title.

This is the first time Doncic has taken this stage. The Finals have a way of revealing his character and exposing him in the best and worst ways: all Doncic has to do is look at his opponents on the other side of the court.

THE CELTICS HAVE state where Doncic is now. During the 2022 Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum ran out of gas and weakened under the pressure put on him on defense, a sort of “Jordan Rules” for the modern style of the NBA aimed at turning strengths into weaknesses.

That summer, Tatum vowed to never let that happen again and trained every day to get stronger and avenge that loss. But the Celtics did not even reach the 2023 Finals, falling in the Eastern Conference finals due to a lack of consistency, a Miami Heat that knew how to exploit their weaknesses and an untimely injury to Tatum after having come back from 3-0 down to force a Game 7.

“Last year, just coming up short in your own court… it was embarrassing,” Celtics guard Jaylen Brown admitted. “I felt like the team trusted me. JT got hurt in Game 7 and I dropped the ball. It was embarrassing for me. It drove me crazy all summer.”

Brown has atoned for last season’s failure in these playoffs. He is the favorite to be named Finals MVP if the Celtics can close out the series on Friday night. And if they do, he would complete the journey Brown and Tatum have taken during their seven seasons together.

That Finals loss to the Warriors, along with three conference finals losses, has given them plenty of experience and losses to learn from.

Doncic has only been close to this level: once, in 2022, when the Mavs fell in the Western Conference finals to the same Warriors team that defeated the Celtics in the Finals. He hasn’t felt the pain of losing on the biggest stage nor the consequences of not facing his flaws.

He’s so talented that he hasn’t had to make the profound changes to his game, body and attitude that Kidd and others have been trying to help him make.

He has tried, to some extent.

He has shown improvement as a defender… at times. He has taken off-season conditioning more seriously… to a point. He has reduced his technical fouls…a little bit.

But he hasn’t done enough and the Celtics have exploited his weaknesses, especially when attacking him on offense.

According to Second Spectrum, Doncic has allowed the three highest percentage of turnovers in drives in a playoff series over the last 10 years. In the first round, the LA Clippers beat him 65.2% of the time. In the second round, the Oklahoma City Thunder outscored him on defense 59% of the time. Against the Boston Celtics, that percentage has skyrocketed to 67.7%.

“That’s what the Celtics do very well, making sure that when they go out hunting, they get the guy they want,” Kidd said.

He didn’t name Doncic as the guy the Celtics are looking for, but he didn’t have to. All Kidd added was that the Mavericks have to “do a better job protecting Luka.”

But there’s no point in sugarcoating the situation with the Mavericks’ season on the brink. Not with Doncic complaining about fouls instead of going back to defense.

Not after he fouled out of Game 3 while attempting to make an ill-advised charge on Brown with less than five minutes left and the Mavericks three points away from tying the score after trailing by 21 early in the fourth quarter.

If the “Jordan Rules” are now being applied to Doncic, with the spotlight on him, it’s yet another lesson Kidd hopes his star player can absorb no matter how this series ends.

“I think the history is there for us to learn from, when you look at the great players and their struggles,” Kidd said. “The big guys use that for the next season or the next two seasons to try to get back there because now they understand that experience is something very important.”

DONCIC WAS ONLY 12 years when the Mavericks won their only title in 2011 by beating James and the Miami Heat in six games. Wednesday night marked the anniversary of that title-clinching game, and the Mavericks honored key members of that team during Game 3.

Luka Doncic complains during Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Tim Heitman/Getty Images

Kidd was the elder statesman of that team and remembers how Dallas challenged James to prove he could shoot from outside and challenged him to take control down the stretch, even though Dwyane Wade was more comfortable in that role.

James couldn’t rise to those challenges that year. He wasn’t ready yet, even though the San Antonio Spurs had done the same to him during their first NBA Finals in 2007.

These hills can sometimes look more like mountains, even for the big ones.

There is no easy path to climb and overcome the summit.

“Any time you feel like you get to the top of the mountain and you fall, there’s definitely a personal failure,” James said after losing those 2011 Finals. “It was a failure in 2007 when we lost to the Spurs when I was in Cleveland. , now it’s a failure for me to lose to the Mavericks.”

Over time, James learned from those failures. We’re about to find out if Doncic can do the same.

“Sometimes I don’t show it the right way, but at the end of the day, I really want to win,” Doncic concluded Thursday. “I have to do a better job of showing it in a different way.”

2024-06-14 16:45:00
#Doncic #understand #defined #Jordan #LeBron #Celtics

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