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Luka Doncic Speaks Before World Cup: Injury Update, Gameplan, More

Mavs superstar Luka Doncic spoke to media ahead of the Slovenian national team traveling to Japan to continue preparation for the FIBA World Cup.
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DALLAS — Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic traveled with the Slovenian national team to Japan on Monday as the team prepares for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup. He sustained an "unfavorable blow" during the second quarter of Friday's loss against Spain in Malaga, ending his performance early and keeping him sidelined for Saturday's loss against Team USA.

Doncic, who averaged 22.5 points, 8.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds in his four exhibition appearances, mentioned that the injury he is managing currently is the same one that he had dealt with after the NBA All-Star break with the Mavs last season. He expressed there is no concern regarding the injury. 

"It is an old injury, which caused me problems in March in the NBA," Doncic said. "Therefore, we performed an MRI. Everything is okay. Nothing worse."

Largely without Doncic in the lineup, it's clear that Slovenia struggled in blowout losses against Spain and Team USA. Despite the final outcomes, Doncic saw some positives, but expressed the need for the team to put together a complete effort as opposed to giving up large runs. 

"We saw a lot of good things in the last two games," Doncic said. "But at the same time, it became clear that we still have a lot of work to do. When we are focused and doing what we need to do, we can be a very dangerous team.

"Simple, we have to follow the rules," Doncic explained. "This is already visible in certain areas. Now we have to get to the point where we will do this for 40 minutes."

A few particular areas that Doncic sees as needing improvement include defense and rebounding. It has been a struggle for Slovenia to contain dribble penetration, which is adds additional challenge since the team lacks rim protection personnel altogether. 

"These are areas we need to work on," Doncic said about Slovenia's defense and rebounding. "I see an opportunity for progress here. Everyone must shut down their player. We have to use our hands more."

The first match Slovenia is scheduled to play against Group F is on Aug. 26 against Venezuela in Okinawa. The team has one exhibition match remaining against Japan on Aug. 19, affording plenty of time to train before group play. 

"It's good that we will also have quite a bit of time for training in Japan," Doncic said. "We lacked that in the last period. That's why I believe we will make progress. 

"I repeat, we need to work on defense, rebounding, and concentration," Doncic reaffirmed. "You have to follow the plan."

As World Cup preparation began, Doncic made clear that he's highly motivated to avenge Slovenia's disappointing finish in EuroBasket last summer. The Mavs finishing 38-44 and failing to qualify for the play-in tournament only added fuel, too. 

"The goal is always same — to win the championship," Doncic said. "Of course, this is a wish, but what actually happens in the competition is another matter. I am very motivated myself, and I was additionally motivated by the failure of my team in the NBA and the failure of Slovenia last year.

"But you always look forward," Doncic explained. "We don't care what happened last year."

Slovenia did make final roster considerations before departing for Japan, including selecting Mike Tobey as the lone naturalized player. The team opted to cut Aljaz Kunc and Jordan Morgan to trim the roster down to the maximum of 12 players. 

Grant Afseth is a Dallas Mavericks reporter for and an NBA reporter for NBA Analysis Network. He previously covered the Indiana Pacers and NBA for CNHI's Kokomo Tribune and various NBA teams for USA TODAY Sports Media Group. Follow him on Twitter (@grantafseth), Facebook (@grantgafseth), and YouTube (@grantafseth).

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