CLEVELAND — The first of these 10 observations about Luka Doncic and the Mavericks over the 2022 NBA All-Star weekend started with a question.
Where was Doncic?
Doncic officially became the seventh player in NBA history on Sunday night to compete in three All-Star Games before turning 23, but his Sunday appearance lasted longer than his first two.
After finishing outside the top two in votes from fans, players and media in the Western Conference backcourt, he joined Team LeBron as a reserve, not a starter.
Then, Suns coach Monty Williams put in all the reserves except Doncic—including veteran point guard Chris Paul and his broken right thumb and All-Star injury replacement Jarrett Allen—for the starters midway through the first quarter.
Fear not, Doncic took the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse court when Team LeBron — and his select charity — needed him the most.
After coming in at 1:30 in the first quarter, Doncic drove consecutive 3-pointers in the last minute to give Team LeBron the lead, 47-45, at the end of the period and rake in $100,000 for Kent State I Promise Scholars Program. Team LeBron won the match 163-160.
Not bad for Doncic’s 90 second All-Star job.
Here are some more observations:
2. Doncic finished the showcase with eight points — equivalent to his first two All-Star scores — and three assists in 25 minutes.
He shot 3 out of 6, including two three-pointers, and improved to 3-0 over Team LeBron.
His layup on the last possession of the third period brought the quarter score to 45 and won another $50,000 for charity.
After being so dominant in scoring in the lead up to halftime for the Mavericks, Doncic was money in a different way on Sunday night.
3. Shortly before the tip, Doncic, in his All-Star uniform, chatted and took pictures with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd, in their NBA 75th Anniversary Team jackets. The three chatted and took pictures in the pre-match arena.
What a unique setup for the franchise’s past and present championships.
“Obviously Dirk is the one who represents Dallas the most, but it’s great to have those two guys with me,” Doncic said. “I see them almost every day, but it’s great. We represent Dallas.”
4. That wasn’t from Doncic only Hall-of-Fame interaction.
Shortly after Michael Jordan was the final honoree in the NBA’s 75th anniversary team halftime presentation, he snuck up next to Doncic and gave him a big hug — always great for the Jordan brand signer.
Doncic flashed his biggest grin of the evening as Jordan shook his hand, held his shoulder and told him to stay healthy.
“That’s great,” Doncic said. “I just don’t know how to explain it. That moment was just unbelievable. MJ knows my name. It’s a lot, so it was just an incredible moment. I have no words for that.”
5. The whole weekend, Doncic undoubtedly had the most fun when he was with Nuggets MVP Nikola Jokic.
The two have similar crazy personalities and a bond over their shared Serbian language and Balkan heritage. After sarcastic, brotherly chatter during Saturday’s media sessions, they celebrated Jokic’s 27th birthday together over dinner.
Their friendship led some Mavericks fans on social media to speculate whether the two could ever orchestrate a move to become teammates competing for the championship, especially after Doncic’s girlfriend, Anamaria Goltes, and Jokic’s wife, Natalija, shared a photo on Saturday. Instagram posts,
Jokic’s current max contract expires before 2023 free agency, and past superstars have pointed to All-Star interactions as the foundation for future partnerships.
But for now, think of Jokic as a Giannis Antetokounmpo-esque dream of a free agency for Doncic fans yearning for a title-competitive core.
The Luka Doncic-Nikola Jokic chatter continued until the very last minute.
Just after Luka found himself standing next to Jokic again and asking for a small ball, Jokic threw one at him as he left.
Luka threw it back… and missed.
“Like my free throws, man.” pic.twitter.com/tnj23jZY88
— Callie Caplan (@CallieCaplan) February 21, 2022
6. The Mavericks’ First Championship Duo sparkled at halftime.
In the days leading up to the team’s 75th anniversary celebrations, Kidd wasn’t sure what to expect. “I think we’re statues at halftime,” he joked. “They roll us out and leave us standing there.”
Kidd and Nowitzki did more than that. They walked down a red carpet, waved from a central stage, and mined among the dozens of legends in attendance.
7. Doncic joined them – kind of.
A few of the current All-Stars then gave short speeches praising the greats of the past, and Doncic concluded the piece: “Congratulations, and on to the next 75 seasons of shining stars.”
That the 22-year-old, who is often shy about speaking English, picked up the microphone to address a sold-out arena while on national TV showed even more growth than anything he did on the pitch.
8. As “ambassador” for the league’s 75th anniversary celebrations over the weekend, Nowitzki had a busy schedule. Game day responsibilities included introducing Team Durant and appearing on TNT’s second quarter broadcast alongside NBA Finals nemesis Dwyane Wade.
The last time Nowitzki took the mic in a sold-out arena? About six weeks ago at American Airlines Center for his retirement speech.
9. Nico Harrison joined the Cleveland Mavericks contingent, his first All-Star experience as a general manager, rather than as a Nike executive. “It’s a lot easier than my old job, running around everywhere,” Harrison said with a smile on Saturday.
10. Utah security guard Donovan Mitchell didn’t play Sunday due to a non-COVID upper respiratory illness, which could be big news for the Mavericks.
Dallas’ first game back from the All-Star break is Friday night in Utah, a crucial clash between No. 4 and No. 5 in the West standings, the first of three between the teams before the end of March.
But first: a quick breather for Doncic before the Mavericks stretch run.
“I’m going away,” Doncic said, “so you won’t see me for the next three days.”
“I’m going to, uh, Slovenia,” he joked before leaving the interrogation room almost as quickly as he ran onto the field. “So, if you want to see me, I’m going to Slovenia.”
Secretive and goofy at the All-Star level.
Luka Doncic rushed out of the interview room at his fastest pace of the night, eager for a short break before Mavs returned.
“I’m going to… uhhh… Slovenia. If you want to see me, I’m going to Slovenia.”
Secretive and goofy at the All-Star level. pic.twitter.com/UWJFFVnIUC
— Callie Caplan (@CallieCaplan) February 21, 2022
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