DALLAS - The Olympics are nearing closer and Dallas Mavericks fans will have two rooting interests, thanks to star Luka Doncic leading Slovenia to the Olympics for the first time in the country's history.
In full transparency, as a Dallas transplant, I did not experience the Dirk Nowitzki reign, or "little Germany" as fellow Sports Illustrated reporter Mike Fisher describes in the video above. However, I can appreciate the passion of Mavs fans who will cheer on both the favorite (Team USA) and the underdog (Slovenia) because of their loyalty to the 22-year-old sensation.
Slovenia punched its ticket to the Olympics with an impressive 96-85 victory over a very talented Lithuania team that was spearheaded by NBA big men Domantas Sabonis and Jonas Valanciunas.
In the least surprising news I've heard this month... Doncic set another record in doing so... finishing the game with 31 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists to become the first player in history to record a triple-double in an Olympic qualifying game.
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In front of a rowdy Lithuanian crowd, Doncic was named the qualifying tournament MVP.
"We won here. We're going to the Olympics, the first time in our country('s history)," said Doncic. "It's amazing. I think every kid dreams about being in the Olympics. I did, too. So, here we are. We fought really, really hard, and I think we deserve to be here."
So yes, while Slovenia could be considered a long shot to win the gold medal (+3100 odds by FanDuel)... the small country could also be considered a dark horse. And if we've learned anything from Doncic's three years in the NBA, it will certainly be must-watch basketball.
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"He's one of the best players in the world, his innate basketball IQ is so impressive," said Team USA coach Greg Popovich of Doncic. "You put four hard-working people around him and you've got a hell of a team."
Slovenia will play Argentina on July 26 (11:40 am CT), Japan on July 29 (11:40 am CT) and reigning World Cup champion Spain on Aug. 1 (3:20 am CT). The top two teams in each group, plus two wild cards, will make the Olympic quarterfinals.
On the other hand, Team USA has grabbed the gold in every Olympics since 2008 when NBA superstars recommitted to the team. Impressively, over that span the Americans have gone 24-0 with an average winning margin of 27.5.
Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, James Harden and Jayson Tatum are among the stars set to play for Team USA, in search of a fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal.
Team USA will play France on July 25 (7 am CT), Iran on July 28 (11:40 am CT) and the Czech Republic on July 31 (7am CT).
Also of note, the Tokyo Olympics will be held without spectators after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshide Suga and the Japanese Olympic Committee confirmed the games will be held under a state of emergency due to rising COVID cases in Japan.