Every night, Luka Doncic reminds fans why his name should be in the MVP conversation. However, the Dallas Mavericks star also reminds us that he has a fatal flaw that is quickly destroying his reputation.
As skilled as Doncic is, the 23-year-old has an issue keeping his emotions in check. More often than not, his outbursts are targeted toward the officials, putting both himself and his team in an unfortunate position.
Luka is dangerously close to earning his first suspension, which could be especially devastating for the Mavs as the playoffs near. Though it seems the young superstar is finally realizing that he needs to change his ways.
Luka Doncic’s brilliance has been overshadowed by his constant complaining
From the first second of 2022 until now, few have been better than Doncic and the Mavericks.
Since 1/1, Luka has averaged 29.5 points with 10.1 rebounds and 8.7 assists. His 24 double-doubles and seven triple-doubles over that span rank second behind Nikola Jokic. Meanwhile, Dallas’ 26-9 record (.743 winning percentage) since New Year’s Day is tied for second with the Boston Celtics.
Not only is Doncic playing at an elite level, but now his Mavs have a similar overall record (43-27) to Jokic’s Denver Nuggets (42-29) and Joel Embiid’s Philadelphia 76ers (43-26), the two leading MVP candidates according to the latest odds. Yet it seems like Luka is a footnote in the MVP mix rather than a worthy contender.
Perhaps it’s because all anyone can focus on while watching the Slovenian is how often he’s complaining. About everything.
You’d be hard-pressed to watch Dallas without seeing Doncic complain at least once about a foul or non-foul. While exercising superstar influence to referees is nothing new, it’s becoming increasingly excessive for the fourth-year guard.
It’d be one thing if Luka’s temper tantrums were harmless. But they’ve often led to the 6-foot-7 guard receiving technical fouls. In fact, his latest outburst against the New York Knicks earned him his 14th technical, meaning he’s just two T’s away from sitting out a game.
Doncic finally admits that he needs to stop confronting referees
Approximately one month after playing in his third All-Star Game, Doncic sat down with former NBA sharpshooter JJ Redick on The Old Man and the Three. Redick asked if the 23-year-old’s inability to lay off the refs is due to his competitive fire.
While Luka confirmed that he is ultra-competitive and unwilling to back down, he also admitted his bouts with the officials need to stop.
“I had a little talk with myself. Real talk, I was like, ‘This isn’t acceptable anymore.’ The way I was acting, maybe some of my personal issues and everything [were responsible], but I had a talk with myself and I just said, ‘This can’t keep going.’ It’s a really bad look. I knew I was doing this but I kept going, so it’s over. … No more, man.”Luka Doncic
It’s fine to give Luka the benefit of the doubt. But it’s worth noting that Doncic has said something very similar in the past.
Late last year, Doncic picked up his 14th and 15 technical fouls in a game against the Sacramento Kings. On the cusp of suspension, Luka told TNT’s Ernie Johnson (h/t: ESPN), “With officials, I wasn’t myself this season. I’ve [been] complaining way too much, and I’ve gotta work on that. I just gotta stay calm and just not talk to them. I gotta learn from that.”
The Dallas Mavericks need a cool and composed Luka Doncic for every upcoming game
Thanks to Doncic, the Mavericks burst through the walls of mediocrity and sprung into legitimate playoff contention. Entering the weekend, Dallas is playing championship-level defense and boasts a 43-27 record that’s good for fifth in the Western Conference. But now isn’t the time to take the foot off the gas.
Even though the Mavs have been the second-best team in basketball since the new year, they only have a 2.5-game lead on the seven-seed Minnesota Timberwolves, who currently will have to earn their playoff ticket by winning in the play-in round. That’s obviously a spot Dallas doesn’t want to be in.
Luka will need to make sure he’s on the court and, more importantly, maintaining his composure. Remember, two more outbursts against ornery refs and Doncic will have to sit. While that would be a bad development in the regular season, it would be downright crippling if it were to happen in the postseason.
Whether it’s on the court or off of it, Doncic does a lot of talking. But now more than ever, he’ll need the actions to follow.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.