Kawhi On MVP Candidate Luka: 'He's The Head Of The Snake'

Mike Fisher

The collected thoughts of the Los Angeles Clippers on Dallas Mavericks burgeoning superstar Luka Doncic:

From head coach Doc Rivers: "Amazing. ... I just think he is a special, special basketball player. He is. And he’s hard to stop. This year he’s come back with more. ...''

From Paul George: “What’s impressive is his skill set at his age. He’s a scorer, he’s a playmaker, he’s a ball-handler. ... He’s in the MVP conversations right now.'' 

From Kawhi Leonard: “He’s the head of the snake over there. He’s playing great. Getting his teammates involved, making shots, just playing competitive basketball, and they’re winning.”

Worth noting: These reviews from the West's second-seeded Clippers come from late November, when all the reigning Rookie of the Year Luka had accomplished through his first 16 games was to averaged an absurd 30.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 9.8 steals and 1.4 steals per game.

Imagine, as Doncic and the Mavs take on the 45-22 Clippers at 5:30 p.m. CT on Thursday in the NBA bubble in Orlando, what they think of him now, following a Tuesday victory over the Kings in which he went full Kareem/Elgin/Wilt/Dirk on an opponent?

READ MORE: Luka Is 'Kareem-Like' In Historic Win 

Luka's three-game numbers in the bubble: 102 points. 33 assists, 41 rebounds. Do the math ... that's 34 points, 11 rebounds and 13.6 rebounds per.

That, obviously, is better than he was doing back when the Clippers joined in the touting of Doncic as an MVP candidate.

The Clippers lost to the Suns on a late-game buzzer-beater on Tuesday (yes, the Mavs know how that feels), and they might have an injury issue with guard Patrick Beverly, who injured his left calf (yes, the limping Seth Curry and the Mavs know how that feels, too).

"I don't think it's bad," Rivers said of Beverly's ailment. "We're going to be very cautious, I can tell you that." (UPDATE: Beverly is OUT for Thursday.)

That also sounds familiar, as it echoes what Dallas coach Rick Carlisle is saying about his team's situation. Just as the Clippers seem destined for the No. 2 slot, the Mavs are essentially locked in to No. 7. So Rick can say, “We’re not going to take any risks medically. We’re going to try to get ourselves ready to play in the playoffs, but we do want to win games here. We feel it’s real important to do that.”

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That remark, of course, is all about "readiness'' to likely face the Clippers in Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs, and maybe there is confidence to be gained with success in Thursday's bubble game. One thing is for certain: Regarding Dallas' success in this game and in Round 1 of the postseason, the Clippers know where to focus:

On "the head of the snake.''