Coming off of a disappointing Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Dallas Mavericks spent Monday doing end-of-the-season exit interviews. When it comes to young phenom Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, both players said things you like to hear going into a pivotal offseason for the franchise.
There was nothing negative coming from the young duo, but rather Doncic continuing his support for Porzingis, and in turn, Porzingis admitting that he needs to be better going forward.
"(Porzingis) is a great player," said Doncic. "I don't know what we're going to do next year with the whole roster. I think we have a couple of free agents. In the NBA, every year you have new teammates, so I don't know what's going to happen. But he's a great player. I think we've got to use him more."
So far, Doncic and Porzingis haven't lived up to the “dynamic duo” hype since the Mavs traded for KP two years ago. However, it's nice to see those two not giving up on the experiment yet, and it's even nicer to hear Porzingis acknowledge that he needs to tweak the way he plays the game to be more effective.
"Yes, I need support. I need people around me to help me with that," said Porzingis when asked if he believes in the Mavs' coaching staff to find the best way to maximize his talent.
"I'll sacrifice and adjust and try to do things the right way. ... That's the only way to grow as a person and as a player - always have an open mind. You can't be stubborn on how you think things should be or how they worked before."
Obviously, actions will speak louder than words, but that sounded like a guy who was humbled by his recent playoff performances and is determined to not have it happen again.
However, despite all the good things Doncic and Porzingis said, general manager Donnie Nelson went in a different direction when assessing the Doncic-Porzingis lack of chemistry that had all of us scratching our heads.
"Here's a guy (Doncic) that thinks that he can win every possession of every game," said Nelson. "His numbers are unique. I think part of his maturity is again knowing how to balance all those kill shots with involving teammates at the right time."
Now hold on a second, unless we're reading that wrong, it sure does sound like Nelson is implying that Doncic needs to work harder to involve Porzingis and the rest of his teammates. And if that is message he was trying to convey, we're going to have to respectfully disagree.
The truth is, this current Mavs roster, which the front office constructed over the last few years, is lacking and needed Doncic to play hero-ball more times than not when teammates weren't able to get it done. That's not to say Doncic's teammates aren't good players, because they are. But the overall lack of talent on the roster stretches a lot of Mavs players' talents thin due to over-exposure.
More Donnie: “That's just part of the maturity process. I think as we move forward you'll see more of an inclusive effort overall on those fronts. I do know that their supposed rift, tiff, whatever you want to call it, is way overblown. Both those guys want to win."
'Inclusive effort'? ... For context, Doncic averaged 8.6 assists per game this season, which was 5th in the NBA. Furthermore, in the first round of the playoffs, Doncic was the leader in total assists (72) and total potential assists (121). The 72 total assists were 11 more than the second player on the list (Damian Lillard), and the 121 potential assists were 12 more than the second player on that list (Trae Young). To say that Doncic, who dished out 14 assists while also putting up 46 points in a Game 7 on the road, needs to up his 'inclusive effort' is asinine. The numbers speak for themselves.
What more can Doncic do for Porzingis if wide-open shots like this one below are being passed on?
Obviously, Doncic's teammates aren't going to always convert his passes into assists.. However, with the amount of open looks Doncic generates, there shouldn't be as many missed assists as there are, and fixing that particular problem starts with Porzingis buying in and Nelson aggressively trying to upgrade the roster around Doncic this summer and beyond.
Porzingis seems to be on board with what he needs to do to be better going forward, and if he commits himself to playing the way that makes him most effective, I'm sure Doncic will find him more than he did this season. Whether Nelson truly believes what he said, or whether it was just a way to coddle Porzingis, who showed frustration with his role in the playoffs, it is still shocking to hear.
Porzingis is a 25-year-old professional basketball player making a fully guaranteed $100 million over the next three seasons. He has been catered to enough. Now is the time to either face the hard truths with him in attempts to make it work out, or make the decision to move in a different direction.
For now, Porzingis himself seems to be on board with the former, and that's where Nelson's focus should be as well.