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DALLAS — Luka Dončić beat the social media allegations and the shot clock with an improvised sky hook.
After being called the NBA’s most overrated player in a recent thread on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, Dončić had yet another dominant performance in the Dallas Mavericks’ 121-115 win against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday. His 41-point, nine-rebound, nine-assist, zero-turnover evening contained everything that has made the Slovenian into a superstar, and it culminated with this trick shot off a broken play when Dončić thought the shot clock hadn’t reset with a minute remaining in the game.
LUKA FOR 39 PTS 🗣️
SECONDS REMAIN IN DALLAS.
🏀 NBA In-Season Tournament on the NBA App
📱 https://t.co/YK9ZmfkUPb pic.twitter.com/svCxve36rm
— NBA (@NBA) November 29, 2023
As Dončić said afterward, he shot it because he knew he was “going to make it.” He pointed out that he’s now 2-for-2 on hook shots in his career, hitting his other one in an international exhibition game against Sweden in 2022, before he was reminded that he had another hook-shot-esque make this very season.
🚨 LUKA DONCIC ARE YOU KIDDING ME? 🚨
HE HAS HIT 4 STRAIGHT CLUTCH TRIPLES TO REACH 49 POINTS.
Mavs up 3 with 12.5 seconds left: https://t.co/1wqRX7Uwkw pic.twitter.com/cK9d9Vzzsl
— NBA (@NBA) October 28, 2023
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “That was a little bit tougher.”
My interpretation: Dončić doesn’t view that make, a clutch 3-pointer to beat the Brooklyn Nets that he flung into the rim over his old pal Dorian Finney-Smith, as a real hook shot. The two he referred to when citing his perfect record are the ones he meant to shoot like that.
You can say anything on social media, and I might be wrong to even add any exposure to one string of posts that received slight traction over the past two days. Its conclusions weren’t accurate enough to even bother debunking. It’s just a funny juxtaposition, one that was too good to pass up. It’s like a version of that bus meme — where one person looks unhappily at an ugly mountain and another passenger grins at a pleasant country side — that labels the happy man as an eye test watcher and the sadder one as an advanced stats nerd. If you finagle statistics in such a manner that you begin to believe Dončić isn’t one of the league’s five best players, then you’re using them wrong.
The Mavericks, now 11-6 in a three-way tie for the Western Conference’s third seed, are a good team. And the reasons for that overwhelmingly start with Dončić.
Mark Cuban is planning to sell his majority stake of the Mavericks to Miriam Adelson, The Athletic confirmed on Tuesday, in a deal that will allow him to retain control of basketball operations. It was major news that preceded Tuesday’s game, something that had been increasingly rumored in hushed tones over the past few weeks. I have far more questions than answers, and those answers may not come quickly.
Adelson is the largest shareholder of Las Vegas Sands Corp., a casino corporation formerly owned and run by her late husband, Sheldon Adelson. In 2022, Cuban mentioned the Sands Corp. as the preferred partner for his vision of a new arena that sits atop a casino-slash-resort destination in Dallas. It’s something that could only happen once the team’s lease with the American Airlines Center, its current arena, expires in 2031. It would also require sports gambling to be legalized in the state of Texas, which has not yet happened despite legislative interest. Adelson has been a leading donor of current Texas governor Greg Abbott, who will serve in his position until at least 2026.
Who is Miriam Adelson, the casino billionaire buying the Mavs from Mark Cuban?
While Cuban might have had many interested buyers had he made public his desire to sell the Mavericks, I wonder how many would have allowed him to retain control of the team’s basketball operations. The tech billionaires who have purchased NBA franchises in the last two decades tend to follow Cuban’s path, with more daily involvement and visible presences that mirror Cuban’s long-standing approach to the Mavericks since he purchased them in 2000. Adelson’s proposed purchase of the team seems to have a clearer business vision that Cuban has endorsed, one which could be less bothered with Cuban’s continued involvement on the basketball side.
Multiple team sources describe Cuban as being far less influential in the team’s front-office decision-making since Nico Harrison was hired as general manager in 2021. Cuban is still actively involved and aware of these decisions, of course. He was present in the team’s draft night war room this summer. But how his control over the team’s basketball operations will actually work when he’s no longer the majority owner is a mystery.
I have yet to hear anything that would indicate Cuban’s decision to sell has any ulterior motive, namely a presidential run, which he has long flirted with making. It was curious that Cuban’s departure from “Shark Tank,” the business-focused reality television show he has starred in since 2011, was announced on Monday. But it might just be that Cuban is withdrawing from his most prominent public-facing positions, for reasons unknown, with a hefty payout attached to it.
If Cuban’s decision to sell wasn’t newsworthy enough, Jason Kidd added another subplot after Tuesday’s game with a profane rant about the media not writing enough positive stories. To quote his entire conversation with ESPN’s Tim MacMahon:
Kidd: “That was the s*** you were making a big deal about last year, but you’re not making a big deal about it this year because s***’s going good. Right? So write some positive s***.”
MacMahon: “I just asked you a question!”
Kidd: “And I’m giving you a f****** answer. It’s all right to write positive stuff. People will read your positive s***. You don’t always have to be negative. The world’s already negative enough. Let’s see some positive stuff on some positive people who are doing their job on a nightly basis.”
MacMahon: “You’re making it a lot easier to do it this year.”
Kidd: “We’re only into this year. We can’t go back to last year. Right? That’s the f****** problem. Have a good night.”
MacMahon had asked Kidd about Dončić and Kyrie Irving’s clutch synergy this year, something that had faltered at times last season after the team’s midseason trade for Irving. It was notable last season, although perhaps too much, since clutch scenarios are merely tiny slices of games despite their enormous visibility. For example, Dallas has had 30 minutes this season defined as clutch scenarios out of the 816 the team has played. What Dončić and Irving did last season before the game’s final minutes was much more representative of the duo’s success than any one possession at the end. It’s probably a small collective failure we have as media members, even if it’s an understandable one, to harp so much on those last plays.
Still, Kidd’s answer was an unusually combative response to an incredibly normal question in a manner that does raise eyebrows. What makes the most sense, to me, is that the point Kidd really wanted to get across is the one he saved for last: “We can’t go back to last year.” Anyone who watched the Mavericks last season probably understands what he means.
Beyond that, I’m once again without answers. If there was something that sparked Kidd’s response, it might not be anything we ever learn.
Dereck Lively II, exceptionally chatty in the postgame locker room, claimed that he gained 15 pounds during the team’s trip to Los Angeles over Thanksgiving weekend. I don’t quite understand how that’s possible, especially since the 19-year-old rookie center said he only had one plate of Thanksgiving food, but the weight fluctuation of a 7-foot-1 teenager might be unknowable even by science. He’s unquestionably in peak physical shape in a profession where he can burn more than a thousand calories per day.
The Mavericks are relying on him, even beyond what the team realistically thought was possible when he was drafted 12th overall. How he continues developing is far more important to this season’s success than some minor lineup tweaks — ones which certainly worked in Tuesday’s win — or any midseason acquisitions.
But in the meantime, can I offer one piece of advice to Lively? Have that second plate. You’re only 19 once.
(Top photo: Tim Heitman / Getty Images)