James Harden praises Luka Doncic


Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic has inspired comparisons to legends like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in less than two and a half seasons of his NBA career.

Among active superstars, Doncic’s game may be more similar to that of perennial MVP candidate James Harden, who acknowledged Saturday night that he considers those comparisons legitimate.

“There are some similarities,” Harden said after the Mavs ‘115-98 road win snapped the Brooklyn Nets’ eight-game win streak. “He never allows anyone to speed him up, and he gets what he wants. That’s rare for a kid at a young age. I think he’s 21 years old. And to be able to dictate the game and control the game like he does, everyone knows he has a very, very bright future.

“The Mavs got a special one.”

Harden’s comments weren’t necessarily a reaction to Saturday night’s game, in which he was the only All-Star available to the Nets with Kevin Durant (hamstring) and Kyrie Irving (injury maintenance) out of the game. .

“Whoever is in the lineup and dressed has to be better, and that starts with me,” said Harden, who had 29 points and six assists but was limited to just four points after halftime.

Doncic had 27 points on 11 of 21 shooting, six rebounds and seven assists in the victory, an impressive but routine performance for a player averaging 28.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 9.0 assists per game.

However, Doncic was flattered when he heard of Harden’s praise.

“It’s something you can’t even describe if someone like that says something about you,” said Doncic, who has previously spoken about Harden’s study, specifically his jump back jump and fouling ability. “He’s just amazing. I really appreciate him. I look at him. He is an incredible player and really special.”

It was Dallas’ seventh win in the past nine games, as the 16-16 Mavs climbed back up to .500.

A big factor in the Mavs’ resurgence has been that a number of players bounced back from COVID-19 and got their rhythm back. Starters Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith and Josh Richardson and reserve Dwight Powell missed extended stretches due to the coronavirus, and backup guard Jalen Brunson also missed several games due to health and safety protocols despite never testing positive. .

The other major event during Dallas’s turnaround has been perhaps the best leg of Doncic’s spectacular young NBA career.

Doncic, who will turn 22 on Sunday, averaged 31.6 points in the last nine games, shooting 51.6% from the floor and 46.1% from three-point range. He has had the three highest-scoring regular season performances of his career (46, 44 and 42 points) during the span and also averaged 7.3 rebounds and 7.9 assists, leading the Mavs in much the same way as Harden did with the Houston. Rockets for eight years before being traded to Brooklyn this season.

“Harden has been in a situation the last few years where the offense has really revolved around him,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “With our team, it happens with Luka in a similar way, but our style is a little different from Houston and Brooklyn. Both guys are generational type players. There’s no question about it.”

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