BOSTON -- As the Dallas Mavericks players made their way into the TD Garden prior to Friday’s game, Luka Doncic arrived amid a slew of TV cameras just clicking away.
Moments later, in came Dirk Nowitzki, who is the greatest player in franchise history.
To see them enter in succession of one another with Doncic first is indeed a visual reminder of the present pecking order of this Doncic-led Mavericks team.
And the 19-year-old rookie did not disappoint, leading the Mavericks with a near double-double 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
But his strong play wasn't enough to derail the Celtics in their 114-93 win.
And while Nowitzki has been praised for how well he has embraced the passing of the torch to Doncic, something many Hall of Fame-bound stars near the end of their careers don’t embrace, Nowitzki is quick to set the record straight.
“Nobody really takes him under his wing,” Nowitzki said. “He’s a confident, young kid. He believes in himself. He’s a millennial obviously. Their swag is a little different than when we got into the league. He felt from Day One, he’s going to do this, he belongs here. He’s been showing that. He’s got a great all-around package for a young player. I have to say, I’ve never seen a 19-year-old as versatile as he is.”
It’s not just teammates who are heaping lots of praise on Doncic, who is far and away the leader for this year’s Rookie of the Year award.
In the first round of fan voting announced by the NBA for All-Star Game starters, Doncic was second among forwards to Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James.
Yes, Doncic garnered more votes (679,839) than Kevin Durant (659,968), Anthony Davis (605,417) and Paul George (580,055), who are all established stars in this league who are once again among the game’s top players.
“I saw the list,” Doncic said. “I was just surprised. It felt amazing. I was the happiest guy in the world right there.”
That’s how the Mavericks feel about their draft-night trade with the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 3 pick used to select Doncic, who despite being just 19 years old came into the NBA as one of the most accomplished international prospects in years.
“He’s special,” said Boston head coach Brad Stevens, whose Celtics played against Doncic’s Real Madrid team when Doncic was just 16 years old.
Doncic remembers that game.
“I remember I scored zero points,” Doncic said, grinning. “It was exciting. I was 16. I played against an NBA team. They had Isaiah Thomas on that team. It was exciting.”
The days of scoreless basketball are indeed a thing of the past for Doncic, whose progress continues to grow with time.
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