Curry, Du­rant have praise for Mav­er­icks rookie Luka Don­cic

Star-Telegram - - Front Page - BY JEFF WIL­SON jwil­[email protected]­gram.com

The loud­est ova­tion Sun­day night at Amer­i­can Air­lines cen­ter came when Dirk Now­itzki made his lone ap­pear­ance for the Dal­las Mav­er­icks in the first quar­ter.

Luka Don­cic gen­er­ated his usual amount of cheers and gasps from the crowd through­out, save for the fi­nal two min­utes.

Most emo­tion from the Amer­i­can Air­lines Cen­ter crowd, though, was re­served Stephen Curry, and right­fully so. All he did for the Golden State War­riors was score 48 points, in­clud­ing the fi­nal seven of the game, as the two-time de­fend­ing NBA cham­pi­ons ral­lied to a 119-114 vic­tory over the Mavs.

But the Don­cic buzz wasn’t gone after the fi­nal horn. It started be­fore the open­ing tip.

“He’s un­be­liev­able,” Curry said.

Don­cic scored a teamhigh 26 points, though he was un­able to con­nect late as the Mavs missed their fi­nal eight shots and couldn’t hold a 113-108 lead with 3:51 re­main­ing.

Curry, a two-time NBA MVP, and Kevin Du­rant, also for­mer MVP, were asked after­ward if Don­cic should be se­lected to the All-Star Game in his rookie sea­son. Curry dodged, and Du­rant seemed to have some doubts.

War­riors coach Steve Kerr was asked be­fore the game, say­ing Don­cic is al­ready an All-Star even if he doesn’t par­tic­i­pate next month in the an­nual node­fense free-for-all. And Curry?

“He’s ex­pe­ri­enced in terms of play­ing high-level bas­ket­ball,” he said of Don­cic, who starred in Europe be­fore be­ing drafted third over­all in the June draft and traded by At­lanta to the Mavs.

“I’m sure he heard all the doubters and peo­ple tak­ing about his game who didn’t re­ally know him. He’s made him­self know, for sure. It’s fun to watch.”

Du­rant also spoke of how well Don­cic plays and how he uses his ex­pe­ri­ence abroad to his ad­van­tage, but wasn’t sure if he be­longs in the All-Star Game. Don­cic is a for­ward on the NBA All-Star bal­lot, and the Western Con­fer­ence has no short­age of qual­ity play­ers at his po­si­tion.

Fans, play­ers and me­dia will select the five All-Star starters from each con­fer­ence, and coaches will select the seven re­serves. Two of their seven se­lec­tions are “wild cards” who could be ei­ther guards or front-court play­ers.

“An All-Star maybe?” Du­rant said. “He’s play­ing great ball for a 19-yearold. It’s def­i­nitely some­thing to look at and con­sider for the All-Star se­lec­tion, but there are so many great play­ers out there at his po­si­tion.

“But just his poise for the game. He’s big and

strong and fast. He played in Europe last sea­son, so he’s play­ing in the sec­ondbest league in the world just fo­cus­ing on his game. You can tell that he’s not shy. He’s not afraid of the mo­ment. He’s go­ing to be a force.”

Kerr sees the same thing as his two best play­ers, but he also sees that Don­cic has a pres­ence that great play­ers have.

Kerr didn’t call it the ‘it fac­tor,’ but what­ever it is, Don­cic has it. He just might not have an All-Star nod as a rookie to go with it.

“Whether he makes it or not, he’s an All-Star,” Kerr said. “Cer­tain guys just stand out. You see what they do. You see what they mean to the game. If he doesn’t make it this year, he’s go­ing to make it soon enough.

“I think just the con­fi­dence, the skill set com­bined with the con­fi­dence level. Com­ing in at 19 years old, nearly 40 games un­der his belt, and looks like he’s been out here 10 years. That’s ex­tremely rare, that kind of swag­ger, that kind of just con­fi­dence in his game, es­pe­cially com­ing from over­seas, liv­ing in the United States for the first time. All that stuff, you throw it to­gether you can see his poise and ma­tu­rity.”

Curry, Du­rant and Don­cic were the three best play­ers Sun­day night. Curry hit 11 3-point­ers, a record for a Mavs op­po­nent, and the fi­nale snapped a 114-114 tie with 42.2 sec­onds to go.

“You have to take those shots and live with those re­sults, and tonight, ob­vi­ously, it worked out,” Curry said. “

Har­ri­son Barnes, who added 22 points for the Mavs, mis­han­dled the ball with 12 sec­onds to go and a chance to tie it. The Mavs’ fi­nal point was a Don­cic free throw with 1:54 left.

Don­cic missed all three of his shots down over the fi­nal three min­utes, but he didn’t get a shot off in the fi­nal minute.

“He’s try­ing to break the de­fense down and have the chances to score and get team­mates in­volved,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “Some nights you don’t make ev­ery shot, and that’s one of the things about the NBA. He’s go­ing to learn a lot from tonight’s game, and he still gen­er­ates a lot of things out there.”

And, at the very least, he has im­pressed the reign­ing two-time NBA cham­pi­ons, whether he is named an All-Star or not. Jeff Wil­son: 817-390-7760, @Jef­fWil­son_FWST

RICHARD W. RO­DRIGUEZ AP

Mavs guard Luka Don­cic backs down against Stephen Curry on Sun­day in Dal­las.

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