Last season, Luka Doncic turned in one of the best rookie performances the NBA has ever seen, easily winning Rookie of the Year. Many rookies who excel suffer a sophomore slump the next year. Doncic, however, came out with more confidence and skill. As a result, the Dallas Mavericks are currently in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.
Doncic’s individual numbers are stunning. Through the first 33 games of the season, he’s racked up 29.6 points, almost 10 rebounds, and nine assists per game. Equally impressive is his on-court “flair,” as ESPN’s Rachel Nichols said in a recent interview.
Let’s look at how Doncic responded to this sentiment, as well as his other praise from around the league.
Luka Doncic has ‘always played like this’
Doncic maintains a veneer of modesty. Whenever possible, he emphasizes that personal achievements are not his goal. Instead, the 20-year-old focuses on team success. If Doncic can help the Mavs win, he’s happy — no matter the stats he puts up. Contrarily, he takes no pride in putting up huge numbers in losing games.
Yet there’s no denying that Doncic takes pleasure in helping his team with style and panache. Gaudy step-back threes, slick no-look passes, and unexpected crossovers are all common in Doncic’s game. Yet he clearly demurred when Nichols asked about his flair.
With a wry grin, Doncic responded simply by saying “I’ve always played like this.” Yet he admitted he enjoys the positive response he gets from fans, especially in opposing arenas. Doncic also said he loves taking shots at the end of close games. He feels confident and supported by his teammates during those clutch moments, the guard explains.
The history of Doncic’s flair
Interestingly, Nichols’ interview isn’t the first time somebody used the word “flair” to describe Doncic’s game. Back in 2018, then-teammate Harrison Barnes explicitly called out the Maverick star’s flair. His point was that Doncic doesn’t just set up his teammates smartly and efficiently.
Instead, Doncic gets his teammates the ball in an impressive, highlight-worthy way. Yet Barnes’ point wasn’t just that Doncic has elite-level flash. Instead, he pointed out that Doncic’s flair works to the benefit of the whole team. Those no-look passes and between-the-legs dribbles generate energy that raises the bar for the entire roster.
Scottie Pippen’s praise for Doncic
Former Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippen has also weighed in on Doncic’s talents on several occasions. In December 2019, Pippen made headlines when he shot down the idea that Doncic could be compared to Michael Jordan. “He got six titles yet?” was Pippen’s saucy response to a TMZ Sports reporter, according to Bleacher Report.
More recently, however, Pippen emphatically praised Doncic’s game. He went so far as to say he considered Doncic talented enough to lead the Mavs to a championship “right now.” Pippen praised the young athlete’s on-court dominance, as well as his ability to continue learning every game.
Pippen also stated that Doncic hasn’t started playing selfish basketball. While most people would consider this a good thing, Pippen was actually saying that slightly more selfish play may take Doncic’s game to the next level.
By making his presence on the court felt through individual dominance, Doncic has the ability to warp the game to his benefit. For a guy who’s already scoring nearly 30 points a game, this kind of leap is a fearsome thought indeed.
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