DALLAS - Luka Doncic’s relatively slow start to this Dallas Mavericks season can be easily explained, by at least one critic: The 22-year-old perennial MVP candidate is “not in shape.”
“He’s had a tough start,” Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer said in a podcast episode with Bill Simmons. “Luka is definitely in the, ‘I play my way into shape’ school. He plays his way into shape and it doesn’t always look great.”
Doncic returned to the Mavs lineup on Tuesday after missing three games due to a sprained knee and sprained ankle. Dallas lost those three games, but won at the Clippers in OT with Doncic putting up a stellar line - a 26-points/nine-rebounds/nine-assists night in 41 minutes - while working in tandem with the sizzling Kristaps Porzingis (30 points, a continuation of his career-high streak of seven straight games scoring 20-plus).
Including the injuries and whatever ups and downs, Doncic has in generally been good here in the early going of the NBA season as the centerpiece of the 10-7 Mavs. Doncic is, however, averaging “only” 24.9 points, his fewest since his rookie year, along with 8.3 rebounds and 7.9 assists.
At the same time, Doncic takes a career-high 21.5 shots per game, with career-lows in shooting (43.4 percent from the field, 30.8 percent from the arc.
Doncic isn’t denying the shooting woes, recently saying, “I don’t understand how that (near-half court) shot goes in and then all my normal shots can’t go in. I’ve got to work on those normal shots.”
Ultimately, Luka is the least of the Mavericks’ worries, especially when we examine his habitual improvement after first months of seasons.
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In 18 career October games, he has averaged 21.8 points on 44.6-percent shooting, the least productive month of his career. But in November? He jumps to 25.9 points per on 46.3-percent shooting.
Bottom line regarding the scrutiny comes from coach Jason Kidd, who smartly analyzed the demands on Doncic.
“We always expect him,” Kidd said, “to be super-human.”
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