DALLAS - Every single thing the Dallas Mavericks do for the foreseeable future is about being "Luka-friendly.''
It so happens Josh Richardson, the newest Mavs addition to the starting lineup, has been literally Luka-friendly since Doncic was 16.
And it looks like the "friendship'' is now going to continue with J-Rich as a first-teamer alongside Luka.
Said coach Rick Carlisle on Sunday morning: "At this moment, I project Josh Richardson as a starter on this team."
The chemistry is in place. But it's been there for awhile.
“We met because he came out (to Santa Barbara, Calif.) to train for a summer,” Richardson said. “The first time we played, I came back to Miami and told some of my best friends: I just met this kid and he’s going to be the first pick in the draft.”
Doncic, of course, ended up being the third pick in that 2018 NBA Draft before being traded to the Mavs. But his quick rise to a top-five MVP and a first-team All-NBA makes Richardson look prescient.
“I still think he should have been (the first pick),” said Richardson. “But he lived up to my expectations so far and more. We’ve been cool since.”
Luka recalled: “I was still playing for Real Madrid. We were working out in the mornings and playing pickup games in the afternoon. Since then, we’ve been keeping up with each other.”
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And now they are together, something coach Rick Carlisle says he's long envisioned "from afar.''
And why is it such a good fit?
“The thing I can bring is toughness, I can bring leadership,'' said J-Rich, who comes over from Philly in the Seth Curry trade. "And I can bring defense. I’m kind of a gap-filler. From night to night, I can fill in where I need to.”
Added Richardson of the teaming with Luka: “I’m excited to play next to him because he’s one of the best playmakers in the NBA. The other team’s best guard, I’ll usually be picking up. He can get in where he fits on defense and handle what he needs to on offense.”
And the rest of the starting lineup? Carlisle has his "Be Ready'' mantra. But maybe (especially while Kristaps Porzingis misses the first few weeks) ... Luka, Richardson and Hardaway ... and then Dorian Finney-Smith? And then ... Dwight Powell? Maxi Kleber? Willie Cauley-Stein?
Lots of options. But for now, we lock in J-Rich.
As good as the Mavs were offensively last season - ‘galactic,’ as Carlisle put it - the team was severely lacking on the defensive end of the court and in the toughness department.
That's over now. Richardson (like fellow tough-guy newcomer James Johnson) makes it clear he's "not an instigator. ...(but) a guy like me, I don’t really take well to my brothers being messed with ... I have no problem doing what needs to be done if people aren’t being treated right. And I feel like there’s a few other guys on this team that feel the same way.”
Richardson, who averages 12 points, three rebounds and three assists over his five-year NBA career, isn’t quite on that desired ‘third star’ level. However, that kind of consistent production, along with tenacious defense night-in and night-out, makes him a nice fit next to Doncic in the Mavs backcourt.
“From the outside looking in, the first thing you see is Luka,” Richardson said. "He’s one of the best players in the NBA. He’s a great engine for this team. And the other thing is it looks like they like playing together and really play for each other. They can score with the best of them.”
And now, thanks to a Luka-friendly move involving someone who is literally Luka's friend, maybe they can play defense, too. ... and they can do it together, with Richardson as a starter.