Luka: On Beating COVID To Being The Champ

It's the first day of Dallas Mavs training camp - which means it's the beginning of an NBA championship quest for Luka Doncic... and his COVID-related analysis
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DALLAS - Luka Doncic's Tuesday visit during "Media Week'' at the start of Dallas Mavericks training camp saw him being slightly more expansive in answers to questions - another grand sign of maturation in the 21-year-old MVP candidate.

But Luka did offer a short-and-not-so-sweet summation of what might be the determining factor as to who's who among NBA contenders in 2020-21.

"Which team is not going to have (COVID-19) positive people,'' he said.

Health has always been a key to which teams survive and then thrive in the NBA. But now? It's not just about ankles and knees and feet, as basketball so often is. It's about "masks'' and "testing'' and protocol.''

The COVID-19 pandemic eliminated the usual pre-Draft scouting and summer-league play. Training camp is shortened. The preseason is just three games. The regular season is just 72 games.

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“We’re clocking everything with an egg timer now,'' Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, while also noting that having a Luka on his roster accelerates everything in a good way.

"He's 21,'' Carlisle said. "He's getting better all the time. His game continues to be more and more refined each year in all areas, and so he's a special player. He's a special person. He's a special leader on our team."

So how quick can a team get ready? And how long can a team stay healthy? Doncic - coming off a first-team All-NBA season during which he averaged 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists - believes Dallas has what it takes to provide the right answers there.

"I want to win the championship,'' Doncic said. "And that's the goal we're going to enter this year as a whole group."

A more expansive Doncic really only experienced one issue to start camp ... and it it COVID-related, kinda. His hair is an untrimmed mess.

"I'm ready,'' Luka quipped. "But my hair's not ready.''