INDIANAPOLIS – Suggestions have been plentiful in recent weeks, if you watched the Mavericks and listened to coach Rick Carlisle close enough.
Yes, Luka Doncic started this season as a striker. Power forward, matter of fact. He has also played as a small forward, escort and, during the various absences of Dennis Smith Jr., point guard.
But let the record show that on this Saturday night, on January 19, 2019, about 90 minutes before their Mavericks were controlled by Indiana, 111-99, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, coach Rick Carlisle finally He came out and said it When asked to compare Doncic and Larry Bird.
"The positions are different," Carlisle began. "Luka is a shipowner."
It's the most definite public statement Carlisle has made about Doncic's position, and if the 11-year Mavericks coach has been so sincere in team circles, he could explain the self-imposed departure from Smith's franchise during a week.
But if Carlisle had known what was going to happen tonight, he probably would have added this qualifier to his statement: rookie guard point.
Because on one of the few occasions this season, he played like a rookie. And for the first time, he showed the immaturity of a 19-year-old, which allowed his frustrations with the officials to overflow in his first career expulsion, although he says that the "soccer kick" that resulted in his second technique and expulsion It was meant to be playful.
"I was not playing well, sure," said Doncic, who finished with eight points, six badists, five rebounds and shot 3-for-14 from the field. "It's one of the worst games I've played, so yes, I'm frustrated, sure."
Carlisle said: "Frustrated, obviously, but it is a situation that should be avoided, there are going to be nights like that, he has to keep playing the game, we need him, we can not afford to lose a guy like that, we can not afford to lose any of our boys. "
Before delving into what happened, let it be known that this is a two-sided problem, which was unleashed on this snowy night in Indianapolis in which the Pacers (30-15) left the Mavericks record at 4-19. .
The first problem: Doncic is a fast-developing star, likely to be an NBA All-Star starting next month, but the NBA referees continue to treat him more like a rookie than a star in terms of calls made. against him.
Secondly: despite everything, Doncic can not allow his frustrations with referees to affect his game, and Doncic certainly did. But he's only 19. He'll learn. In fact, 20 minutes after the game, he summed up the experience in a fairly mature way.
"I learned something new today," he said. "Everyone does bad things in their life. It will not stop me in the next game, in two days. [at Milwaukee]. That's the good thing about the NBA. Next game, just forget it and keep going. "
During a recent stretch of six games, Doncic threw 34 free throws. In the last two games, he has tried six free throws.
The Mavericks have noticed the nights of disparity. Even before Doncic was ousted three minutes before the third quarter, owner Mark Cuban tweeted:
Even though the Mavericks took an early lead of 19-12 against the team with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, it became clear that Doncic was at odds with the umpire team of Josh Tiven, Curtis Blair and Brett Nansel
Doncic left the game with a cut on the left side of his lower lip. He said that the game in which he got hurt was what earned him his first coach, when, when he left the court, Doncic turned and called Tiven.
"The referee told me at the beginning of the game, there were some soft faults and they are not calling them," Doncic said. "In the last one, they kicked me in the head and I asked him:" Is it a soft call? & # 39;
The technique of kicking the ball came after Indiana's Domantas Sabonis recovered, giving the Pacers a 78-65 lead. Doncic seemed sincere when he said it was an accident.
"I was trying, what do you say, juggling the ball?" He said. . "I have to work on my football, I suppose."
Maybe he did not know his own strength. The ball sailed well over the height of the top of the board.
"I did not try to kick the ball in the stands," he said. "Of course, I did not know the rule that if it enters [the] He gets expelled. Different rules in Europe. "
So, if that had happened in a EuroLeague match?
"They would not have expelled me for that, for sure."
Doncic left the court with a towel over his head and a smile on his face, but after the game he understood that the night in general was not a laughing matter.
"I have to change that, sure," he said. "I have to learn from that, learn from Dirk's example [Nowitzki]. He does not care about the referees. He just keeps playing. "
This topic is losing its voice.