AP Photo/LM Otero
Dallas Mavericks governor Mark Cuban believes Luka Doncic took the criticism on board when people questioned whether his conditioning was where it needed to be early in the NBA season.
“I think he was humbled a little bit,” Cuban said Tuesday on 1310 The Ticket (via ESPN’s Tim MacMahon). “I think he didn’t like being called out for his weight and other things, and it finally clicked that there’s a level of discipline that’s required.”
One of the bigger knocks on Doncic when he entered the NBA in 2018 was that he wasn’t a supreme athlete. That in turn might hinder him on defense and limit his individual dynamism as a scorer.
The 22-year-old has gone on to make two All-NBA teams and earn three All-Star nods, so those concerns have largely been rendered moot.
Still, Doncic acknowledged in December that his training level wasn’t where it needed to be in the offseason:
Kevin Gray Jr. @KevinGraySports
Luka Doncic addressed the ongoing talk about his weight and conditioning with reporters after the Mavs loss to the Nets saying: <br><br>“I had a long summer. I had the Olympics, took three weeks off, relaxed a little bit. Maybe too much. I’ve just got to get back on track.” <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/MFFL?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#MFFL</a> <a href=”https://t.co/1K9BsYvL3e”>pic.twitter.com/1K9BsYvL3e</a>
It’s not uncommon for a star to play his way into game shape as the season unfolds.
That’s often the case with James Harden. Fitness isn’t an issue when it comes to Russell Westbrook and LeBron James, but they’ve typically gotten better and better as the year went on as well.
Until the Mavericks find a second star to pair alongside their franchise cornerstone, Doncic can’t afford to perform at a level or two below his best for the first few months, though.
Through December, the 6’7″ playmaker was averaging 25.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 8.5 assists while shooting 44.7 percent from the floor and 32.6 percent from beyond the arc. Since January, he’s nearly averaging a triple-double (29.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 9.4 assists) while shooting more efficiently (45.1 percent overall and 34.4 percent on threes).
However, the Mavericks are still 1.5 games out of a top four seed thanks in part to being under .500 (17-18) when December ended.
The burden of being in Doncic’s position is a heavy one as he carries the Mavs’ championship hopes on his shoulders. Failing to put in the work away from the court is something he simply cannot do.