The SportsHeads meets: Luka Doncic – Dallas Mavericks

Picture Courtesy of the NBA

You had such a special game last week for you personally when you played against LeBron James and the L.A. Lakers. What was going through your mind when you had a chance to step on the court at the same time playing against LeBron, playing against your idol? What was that like for you? What was that experience like for you?

LUKA DONCIC: I mean, it was amazing. It was something special for me, for sure. I looked up to him as my idol. It was just great for me. Like I said, it was special, and it will be a day that I remember.

Is there any clear leader in your team? Who is it, and do you see yourself as one in the future? Because judging by the points per game average, you already are.

LUKA DONCIC: We have many leaders, I think, but of course I always consider myself as a future — I want to be a leader. That’s how I feel. In some future, my team is going to help me so I can be one.

Just wanted to ask you about the Rookie of the Year race. What would it mean to you to win that, and how much do you think about that or keep an eye on what others are doing around the league?

LUKA DONCIC: Yeah, of course it would be special, but for me it’s always for the team. Of course I want to enter the playoffs first. That’s my goal, and later the individual stuff. But yeah, of course it would be something special.

I wanted to ask you, how has it been the change coming from a team that was accustomed to winning everything to here in the NBA where there is a lot of struggles with the team?

LUKA DONCIC: It’s really hard because I was a person who gets really upset if we don’t win, and for me it’s been hard, the games we lose. But I think it’s just the beginning of the season. We have a lot of games to go, and we’re going to get together and the chemistry is going to get better and we’re going to win some games.

After everything that happened on draft night with you and Trae [Young], do you consider you guys have a rivalry right now? That everything you’re going to do in your career is going to be compared with everything he does?

LUKA DONCIC: No. I mean, not really because I don’t think for me there’s the individual rivalry. There’s just team rivalry. I compete against every team, so there’s not a special team that I compete with.

I just want to congratulate you first for your great beginning individually in the NBA. And you are having numbers that the last rookie had in the NBA was Michael Jordan right now, so what does it mean for you?

LUKA DONCIC: That’s everything, because I mean, Jordan was — he’s the best player that ever played the game. But I don’t think you can compare me with him because he had an amazing career. That’s why he’s the best player of all time.

You seem to have a pretty smooth and seamless transition from Europe, from the European game to the NBA. Have there been any difficulties that we didn’t see on the TV? What has been the biggest obstacle for you, the biggest challenge so far?

LUKA DONCIC: I moved when I was 13 from Slovenia, from my home, to Spain. So this time it was really easy for me. It wasn’t difficult at all. I feel like Dallas is my home now.

When exactly did you make your decision to join the NBA when playing for Real Madrid in the EuroLeague?

LUKA DONCIC: I don’t exactly know when, but I always wanted to play in the NBA. I always wanted to try, and I just wanted to play in the NBA.

When was the time that you realized you would choose playing basketball over Euro football because Europe is a really big football continent? Was there a specific moment or a game that you watched?

LUKA DONCIC: I always loved basketball. I always played basketball when I was young. So I always wanted to play basketball.

I want to ask you, are you comfortable with your game so far? I want to know if you think you’ve been playing at your best or the sky’s the limit for you.

LUKA DONCIC: Yeah, I always like to have the ball in my hand, create for others. I always want to play a lot of pick-and-roll. But here it’s different because here there are so many great players, so many talented players, and everybody can play.

I would like to ask if you think that the new format of the EuroLeague, with two games per week, helped you to adapt to the NBA, and if this format has helped more European players adapt faster to the NBA?

LUKA DONCIC: Yeah, sometimes there are three games per week. So I think that format is better now that there are more games.

I just wanted to ask if you’ve tried to adapt your game to the athleticism of the NBA and if you are trying to work on your body for this reason?

LUKA DONCIC: Yeah, of course I try to work on it. It’s the thing I’ve got to improve, for sure. There are a lot more athletic guys in this league, so yeah, I’m working on it.

What’s it like to get the trust of a veteran coach like Rick Carlisle, a guy who has brought the team to the NBA Finals and won a championship? How did you earn his trust right away?

LUKA DONCIC: Of course he’s a great coach, and I really like him. It’s great to have — he was an NBA champion, so he’s a great coach.

I would like to ask you, in your opinion, which is the No. 7 shirt Real Madrid is missing the most, you or Cristiano Ronaldo?

LUKA DONCIC: I would say Cristiano because he’s one of the best players in the world, and I’ve got to achieve that.

What do you think is the biggest surprise for you in the NBA? Is it faster, higher paced as you thought, or is it more like a higher toughness in the physicality?

LUKA DONCIC: The game is faster, for sure, but I already expected that. So I’m not surprised at all. But I think faster and more physical.

I know you had a chance to speak with Pau Gasol I think right after the game in San Antonio against the Spurs. Did Pau give you any advice, or what advice did Pau Gasol give you when you had a chance to speak with him?

LUKA DONCIC: No, no advice, but I speak with him. I already spoke with him, so he just wished me good luck. He’s a great player, so that gave me confidence.

With Dirk maybe retiring at the end of the season, and the new talent on the team, can you tell me whether there are any personal objectives for this season or the season to come?

LUKA DONCIC: Like I say, I would like to go to the playoffs with the team. That’s my first goal, for sure. And after that, Rookie of the Year. That’s one other thing I’m looking for.

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