DALLAS - We are four games into the NBA preseason, one outing to go ... and the understandable No. 1 chemistry goal is to make sure Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are meshing. But there is an almost-as-important secondary goal, too.
"The Unicorn'' and "The Wonderboy'' (those are KP and Luka's pre-Dallas given nicknames; we can work on a combo moniker if you like) combined for 36 points and 23 rebounds Monday night at the AAC to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 107-70 pounding of the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was the first preseason victory for the Mavs after three losses. ... but it wasn't the first time KP and Luka looked in-synch.
“Do I feel like we’re on the same page?'' Porzingis answered a question with a question. “Sure! We want to win together and we want to do things right and we want to build a chemistry, and we know it’s going to take a little bit of time.”
Time? OK. We've got a little bit of time. Luka is 20 and the Rookie of the Year begins his second season in the NBA. Kristaps is 24 and in nine days will play his first regular-season game in a Dallas uniform.
Yet ... we are already there in many ways. Given egos and youth and money and power, it's not always a guarantee that blossoming-star teammates will always happily blossom together. We can roll all the way back to Jason Kidd, Jimmy Jackson and Jamal Mashburn ... or we can roll back a few months while we ponder what in the heck happened to Dennis Smith Jr.'s Mavs career.
But now? As the Mavs prep to close preseason action Thursday in Vancouver against the Los Angeles Clippers before opening regular-season play at home on Oct. 23 against the Wizards, yeah, the two top dogs are leading the pack in lockstep.
“I always tell you the same thing,” Doncic said of Porzingis. “He’s a great player and a great person, so we’re going to get along.”
That doesn't mean they've been perfect this preseason; even in the win over OKC, while Doncic led the Mavs with 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, he also committed six turnovers. And Porzingis collected 17 points and a game-high 13 rebounds but once again didn't shoot especially well.
Still, coach Rick Carlisle praised Luka's "great feel for the game'' while labeling KP's talent "breathtaking.” And he cited the natural connection, too.
“They go hand-in-hand in a lot of ways,” Carlisle said. “Those guys bond on a lot of levels. They both came up through systems where they spent time in Spain, and they are both fluent in Spanish and often times they talk to each other in Spanish.
“Their experiences from a young age mirror each other at least on some level. No one had any doubt that they’d be guys that became good friends and ultimately would be close off the court. I feel those kinds of things ultimately are going to lead to them bonding and becoming more familiar with each other on the court as well.”
We're all for that. But our oft-repeated concern about the Dallas rotation is ... "What about the third guy? Who is it? What is his talent level? And how does he mesh with the Big 2?'' We recognize that player's identity could change on a nightly basis. But we're suddenly impressed by the fit-in of Wright, Dallas' top summer acquisition, the former Grizzlies part-time starter here finishing with nine points, seven rebounds and three assists in 27 minutes.
A bond between Doncic and KP is great. A bond between starting backcourt mates Doncic and Wright would be nice, too.
“I had a good practice (Sunday) and got my legs back under me,” said Wright, the 6-7 defensive ace who has been battling a hamstring problem, “and tried to just be more aggressive (in the OKC game.”
The Mavs aren't going to reach their goals with only two players playing well, and they won't do it on talent alone. So chemistry matters. Right, Rick?
"Delon showed more of what he can give us defensively with the deflections, he had one or two blocks, was pushing the ball, was hitting open shots, driving, causing problems,'' Carlisle said. “There’s growing chemistry there (between Delon and Luka), which is important.''