The Dallas Mavericks are in a difficult situation right now. They have lost seven of their last nine games and their record has fallen to 25-24 for the season. They are now sixth in the Western Conference rankings and with the February 9th trading deadline fast approaching, they may be considering changes.
Luka Doncic has carried the burden for Dallas this season, leading to many fans urging the Mavericks to move. And in their most recent loss to the Washington Wizards on Jan. 24, the Mavericks lost in devastating fashion, with Doncic fouling Kyle Kuzma in the dying seconds and allowing him to score the game-winning free throw. After the game, Kuzma spoke about the play, admitting that Washington had been trying to chase Doncic all night.
“So I’m trying to get the ball in Brad[ley Beal]’ Kuzma explained via the official Wizards YouTube channel. “They sent him two. And then we had a break, but I saw Deni. When Deni wanted to drive, I just told him – screamed his name, [he] handed me the ball back, I looked at Brad for a second, I checked my watch, and then I just walked away. Because I had Luka with me and I knew we were trying to chase him all night. And you know, [I] tried to bypass the double team and he found me. And thankfully the referees made the decision and helped us prevail.”
Doncic has never been a great defender, but his talent on offense means he’s almost always on the ground. He played well on defense in that game against the Wizards, but Kuzma didn’t have room to run, so he was called out for the foul. Head coach Jason Kidd challenged the call, but it was upheld.
Kuzma’s free throw capped off an impressive evening for him. He accumulated 30 points, five rebounds and two assists on 12-of-23 shots from the floor and 2-of-10 shots from behind the three-point line. As for Doncic, his numbers were impressive too. He had 40 points, 15 rebounds and six assists on 16-of-29 shots from the field and 0-of-4 shots from long range.
Doncic is one of the best players in the NBA, and as he demonstrated in Dallas’ run to the Western Conference Finals last year, he’s capable of taking a team deep into the playoffs. But during an appearance on the Out of the bag Podcast Spencer Dinwiddie spoke about the difficulties of playing with Doncic. As Doncic will always be the superstar, the narratives surrounding the rest of the team are often damaging.
“Luka is obviously by far our superstar and we have other guys who are obviously good players,” said Dinwiddie. “But because there is no other superstar, it doesn’t go from apple to apple, it will always be Luka and the boys. So you just have to be mentally strong and be built for that off the pitch because like I said, on the pitch he will make it a lot easier.”
It was recently reported by ESPN’s Tim MacMahon that Doncic recently asked the Mavericks’ front office to improve the roster ahead of the trade deadline.
“Sources say Doncic, who has shown no desire to interfere in personnel matters in the past, has been very keen on wanting the Mavs to upgrade before the Feb. 9 trade deadline,” MacMahon reported.
However, MacMahon continued to report that Mavericks owner Mark Cuban flatly denied the claim.
“Mark Cuban denies that Luka Doncic has indicated he would like the roster updated before the trade deadline.
Cuban: “Tim MacMahon was dead wrong. Luka never suggested, asked, demanded or discussed any changes to the squad,” MacMahon tweeted.