Following a solid start to the season, the Dallas Mavericks have hit a wall. The Mavs, led by superstar Luka Doncic, have lost six of their last eight games to enter the weekend at just 11-10. To make matters worse, head coach Jason Kidd has a criticism for Doncic and how often he seeks aid from the officiating crew.
Luka Doncic is taking fewer free throws than ever before
The NBA has cracked down on players using non-basketball moves in order to draw contact. The result has been a dwindling amount of free throws, with Doncic being one of the greatest players affected.
The 22-year-old superstar averaged 7.1 free-throw attempts in 2020-21 and a whopping 9.2 the year prior. Through 18 games in 2021-22, the Slovenian is attempting an average of 5.7 free throws per contest.
Headlined by fewer trips to the line, Doncic is experiencing a down year. The two-time All-NBA selection is averaging 25.4 points — the fewest since his rookie season. His overall shooting numbers have also seen a slight decline, shooting 44.5% from the field and 32.9% from three.
Luka isn’t the only player earning fewer trips to the charity stripe. In 2020-21, 19 players (including Doncic) finished the season with 6.0 free-throw attempts or more. Through December 3, only 10 players have averaged 6.0 or more.
Jason Kidd is calling for Doncic to tone down the complaining to the officiating crew
One of Kidd’s greatest perks with accepting the Mavericks job was the ability to work with a talented superstar in Doncic. Yet the Hall of Famer, who likened his young point to an artist before the season, has taken issue with his constant jawing toward officials.
Friday night, Dallas fell 107-91 to the dismal New Orleans Pelicans. Doncic finished the game with 21 points but managed to make seven out of nine free-throw attempts. Yet throughout the contest, the young star pleaded with the referees for more fouls to be called. In Kidd’s mind, Luka’s cries were excessive.
“You’re not going to get any calls,” Kidd told ESPN and other media members after the loss to New Orleans. “Officials, they tend to not stop the game to change calls. You have to understand there’s a point in time in games — dead balls — to be able to talk to officials.”
Luka’s complaining isn’t just making him look foolish. According to Kidd, it’s affecting the performance of the entire Mavericks team.
“While the game is going on, transition defense is one of the things we’ve talked about that we have to get better,” Kidd added. “If we’re lobbying for calls during live play, it puts us in harm’s way. … Just some things have got to be a little bit more important. I think we’re going to get better at understanding as a team when to talk to officials. Not just Luka.”
The Dallas Mavericks need an MVP-level Luka Doncic to make waves
Doncic set the bar incredibly high after winning Rookie of the Year and securing back-to-back All-Star appearances. But in order for the Mavericks to go from good to great, the 22-year-old will need to step up his game even further.
Friday’s showing against the Pelicans was one of his worst. Two days after recording a season-high eight turnovers, Luka gave away the ball another seven times. He also shot 35.0% for the night, his lowest since going 5-of-18 in Dallas’ 31-point loss to the Denver Nuggets on October 29. Fortunately for Mavericks fans, it appears Doncic has taken his coach’s advice to heart.
“J-Kidd, he’s got a point,” Doncic said after the loss. “I’ve got to stop doing that.”
As the Mavericks now barely hover above .500, it’s time for Luka to put aside his petty feud with the zebras and focus on delivering Dallas to the promised land.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.