What does Luka Doncic think of being a last-minute All-Star replacement?
For the first few minutes of Friday’s Rising Stars game, Dallas Mavericks’ rookie Luka Doncic couldn’t stop grinning.
Perhaps it was the immediate, fearless, offensive theatrics both teams came out showcasing. Maybe he was just happy to be on the floor with the NBA’s youngest and brightest.
His joy and love for the game, which has become obvious to Mavericks fans throughout this season, was on display again at the Spectrum Center in downtown Charlotte.
No matter that USA Team, led by the Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma, who had 35 points, beat Doncic’s World Team by the ridiculous score of 161-144.
Doncic, who finished with 13 points, nine assists, five rebounds and two steals in 24 minutes, had a blast.
“For me, it was not about winning. These kinds of things are for fans,” Doncic said. “I had a lot of fun. I wasn’t trying to shoot shots, just trying to pass to people who can dunk, not me.”
Neither team feigned playing any defense. Team USA led 83-71 at the half while shooting 61 percent. Team World wasn’t too far behind at 57.4 percent. Part of that was because more than half the shots were dunks, including a plethora of high-flying alley-oops.
Doncic never really got a chance to show off what has made him the leading candidate to win Rookie of the Year honors. But it was obvious he wasn’t necessarily intent on pushing the issue or hogging shots. He only took 12 total shots, including going 1 for 4 in the first half. The 76ers’ Ben Simmons led the World Team with 28 points on 14 of 17 shooting.
Dallas Mavericks’ legend Dirk Nowitzki, who served as World Team honorary coach, tried to rally his team with a pre-game speech in which he cautioned them from dribbling too much, like his teammate Doncic, he joked.
“Maybe that’s why we lost,” Doncic joked. “I was just having fun out there. Not trying to do too much. I would wish that it was like normal game. I don’t really like that kind of game.”