Doncic, Mavericks ready farewell to Wade, Heat
As the Dallas Mavericks welcome the struggling Miami Heat to town Wednesday night, the final game for both teams before the All-Star break, it's a story of the new guard -- precisely a 6-foot-7 point guard -- replacing the old guard.
Even though Dallas (26-30) sports a sub-.500 record, has won all of six road games and is essentially on life-support as far as grabbing a Western Conference playoff spot, perhaps no team sitting outside the playoff bubble enters All-Star weekend with more optimism.
That optimism can be summed up in two words: Luka Doncic.
The 19-year-old rookie -- who turns 20 on February 28 -- has created optimism that Dallas might soon return to contender status. Dallas believes so highly in its young Slovenian star that it traded away its entire starting lineup to land 7-foot-3 Kristaps Porzingis -- who won't even play this season as he continues to recover from a torn ACL -- and to clear out salary-cap space to make a run at key free agents to build around Doncic.
And if All-Star starters were still selected solely by the fans, Doncic -- who leads the rookie class in scoring (20.8 points per game) and ranks second in rebounding (7.1) and assists (5.5) and third steals (1.1), while often delivering in the clutch -- would be in the starting lineup in Sunday night's Game in Charlotte.
But when votes from the media and players were factored in, Doncic was bumped from the starting lineup, and the league's coaches didn't select him as a reserve in the star-filled West.
"I wanted to go 1/8to the All-Star Game 3/8, and I was very disappointed when they told me I wasn't," Doncic said in a recent interview with EuroHoops.net. "What matters is the people who voted for me. I was impressed, and that's what matters most to me. Maybe next year I'll be there."
Doncic will, however, command a large presence in Charlotte as the showstopper in Friday night's Rising Stars Challenge and then in Saturday night's Skills Challenge.
Against the Heat, Doncic will share the floor with two players who will suit up Sunday as All-Stars one final time as honorary team members -- his Mavs teammate Dirk Nowitzki and Dallas nemesis and Heat star Dwyane Wade. While Nowitzki is receiving emotional sendoffs at every road arena he plays, even though he has not declared his 21st season in Dallas to be his last at age 40, Wade announced that he will retire at season's end.
Dallas fans grew to loathe Wade after his free-throw parade led Miami back from a 2-0 deficit to win the 2006 NBA Finals over Nowitzki and the Mavs. In 2011, Nowitzki and Dallas got revenge by taking down Wade and LeBron James in the first of their four Finals appearances together.
While Nowitzki has said he and Wade have mutual respect for one another, Dallas fans for Wade might not be so quick to give him a friendly sendoff in his final game there.
"Of course, like I said after '06, we had some frosty times, but I think that's way behind us. I always say he pushed me to become the player in '11 to ultimately win," Nowitzki told the Dallas Morning News. "There were some things said after the '06 Finals, and both sides in '11.
"There were some times when we didn't speak much, but like I said, I always watched from afar and he's one of the best two-guards to ever play the game."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 12, 2019