Following Rick Carlisle’s departure, a few talking heads decided that, after spending a few seconds talking about the Mavericks over the last decade, in their incredibly educated opinions Luka Doncic was the reason Carlisle and GM Donnie Nelson moved on from the organization.
At the time Mavericks fans were shocked. Based off of everything they’ve seen and heard about their local superstar, everyone thought the world of Luka. The guy who many have dubbed the next face of the NBA has established himself as a fan favorite throughout the league, but according to guys like Brian Windhorst (among others) nobody wants to play with the young Slovenian, citing attitude problems that they are somehow aware of in spite of not even setting foot in the American Airlines Center.
“I don’t know how many people are going to be excited to play with Luka (Doncic). I think Luka is, maybe, a difficult person,” Windhorst said a few weeks ago. “He’s a great player but when you watch the Mavericks play, he’s barking at the coach, he’s barking at his teammates, he’s barking at the officials. He’s always barking about something. He can really be an irritable guy.”
What’s quite remarkable here is that Windhorst, a guy whose entire career exists because of his friendship with the game’s best player in LeBron James, sees Luka’s “barking” at officials as problematic, yet that’s exactly how the games top players (namely LeBron) behave. Sadly, since Windhorst is taken somewhat seriously by relatively uninformed sports fans, the narrative was allowed to spread without any resistance. The Mavs were out of the playoffs, and Luka was on the other side of the world doing what he loves to do: play basketball.
Fortunately, Luka’s Slovenian teammates have come to bat for their national icon, dispelling any notion that Luka is a bad teammate or difficult to play with.
“I’d tell you completely the opposite,” said Mike Tobey, a center for the Slovenian national team, when asked about the media’s narrative about Luka. “From my experience, he’s a great guy, on and off the court. I’m really enjoying this experience of playing with him. I don’t know where those reports are coming from but my experience is the complete opposite of those things.”
During his podcast last week, JJ Redick told former NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala that Luka was one of the most down-to-earth superstars he’s ever been around, saying that he acts just like “one of the guys” on the team.
All of this flies in the face of the national media’s narrative, which begs the question “how did this narrative come to be in the first place?”
There are many theories, but all of them revolve around the fact that Dallas is not Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, or Miami. The big time NBA analysts don’t live anywhere near Texas, and painting Dallas as a team that can’t win only helps get the future best player in the world to a team on the coast. Hell, even Adam Silver was somewhat disappointed at the fact that a legend like Dirk would spend his entire career in one city. Surely the last thing he wants is for Luka to spend the next two decades in Big D, as opposed to taking the LeBron and KD route and playing for a handful of franchises.
No matter the source of these rumors, the reality is they are just that, rumors. Mavs fans in the know are aware of how difficult Rick Carlisle was to work with, and his departure had little to do with Luka’s relationships with teammates and players around the league. The best thing about all of this is that Luka continues to dominate with his national team, while paying little to no mind of what goes on in the states (outside of his 2k cover reveal!)