Truth be told, Luka Doncic was already on a beach in the Caribbean.
In his head, of course. In reality, he was still in Charlotte.
And who could blame the 19-year-old Dallas Mavericks rookie. His heart wasn’t exactly in it during the NBA Skills Challenge Saturday night at the Spectrum Center.
He woke up with a stuffed up nose and the sniffles that was obvious during a Saturday morning media event.
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You could tell he was tired when he casually dribbled up the court, allowing Hawks’ rookie Trae Young to beat him to the 3-point line for the winning shot in the second round. His history with Young at last year’s NBA draft didn’t move the needle, either.
The Celtics’ Jayson Tatum beat Young in the finals to win the challenge.
“It’s been great so far,” said Doncic, who turns 20 on Feb. 28, about his first All-Star Weekend experience. “I’m happy that it’s done. It’s a lot of work to do, but I’m happy. It’s a little bit more work to do, a lot of media, a lot of appearances. But it was fun. It was my first one and I hope of many to come.”
From the face of the Mavericks’ future to the face of the franchise for the past 20 years, Doncic stuck around to watch Dirk Nowitzki compete in the 3-point shooting contest. Nowitzki got off to a shaky start and was eliminated in the first round after finishing with 17 points, eight off the pace to advance.
“The first rack was awful and it took me a while to get going there,” Nowitzki said. “I wanted to make the finals obviously. But we saw some great performances.”
Nowitzki, 40, almost didn’t get all of his shots off within the time limit. He had to rush a couple on his last rack. Afterward, he had some fun with his pace issues.
“I was hustling harder in between racks that I do in transition defense,” Nowitzki joked. “It was fun to be a part of and in the locker room with some of the greatest shooters we have in our game. I really enjoyed it.”
The Thunders’ Hamidou Diallo edged former Mavericks guard and current Knick Dennis Smith Jr. in the Slam Dunk contest. Diallo wowed the crowd by leaping over former NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, who was standing in the paint with his head slightly dipped facing the basket. O’Neal escaped unscathed and Diallo’s dunk was spectacular, although his flying feet nearly hit Shaq’s face as he swung on the rim for emphasis.While Doncic heads to a beach, Nowitzki will take part in his final All-Star Game as the Western Conference’s honorary All-Star Sunday night. He doesn’t expect to play more than a few minutes and is just hoping to knock down one last 3-pointer in the showcase event, the 14th of his career. The game is for the league’s current top players, Nowitzki said, who were voted in by the fans, coaches and other players.
“I look forward to the game [Sunday] and close this weekend out on a high,” he said. “Then go back home and finish the season strong. We still want to make the push. We feel good about the young guys and the season. We want to finish strong and let’s see if we can get hot here down the stretch.”