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Luka Dončić played one quarter then pulled, shut down for season

Sacramento Kings v Dallas Mavericks

DALLAS, TX - APRIL 5: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks looks on during the game against the Sacramento Kings on April 5, 2023 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

Heading into Friday night, the Dallas Mavericks still could make the play-in as the No.10 seed if they won both of their remaining games and the Oklahoma City Thunder split their final two.

The Mavericks owe their first-round pick in June to the Knicks (the ghost of the Kristaps Porzingis trade still haunting them) but it is top-10 protected. As of Friday night, the Mavericks and Bulls were tied for the 10th-worst record in the NBA.

The Mavericks faced the Bulls Friday night and Dallas management made its call: Kyrie Irving, Josh Green, Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber and Christian Wood all sat out the game.

Luka Dončić played one quarter and then was pulled. The only reason he played at all was that it was “I Feel Slovenia” night at the Dallas arena, promoting Doncic’s native country, and he didn’t want to let down the Slovic fans who came to see him. Suffice it to say Jason Kidd was not exactly happy.

The Mavericks went on to come apart in the second half and lose to the Bulls.

This is the right move by Dallas.

Of course Kidd and Dončić want to compete and try to make the play-in, that’s who they are. The reality is the Mavs would need help from the Thunder to make the play-in, then have to win two games on the road to get the No.8 seed, where an undersized Mavericks team that struggles to stop teams in the paint would have to face Nikola Jokić and the Nuggets.

The more important long-term strategy is trying to hang on to the No.10 pick — a valuable trade piece for a team looking to overhaul its roster outside Dončić and Irving this summer. It’s just not going to be popular in the locker room.