Mavs' Doncic seeks better outing in rematch with Kings
Now that Dirk Nowitzki has passed Wilt Chamberlain as the NBA's sixth-leading scorer of all time, two questions remain for the Dallas Mavericks in a season that will conclude without a playoff berth for the third consecutive season.
Will Luka Doncic hold off the Atlanta Hawks' surging Trae Young for Rookie of the year? And will the Mavs avoid sending the Hawks their top-five-protected draft pick agreed upon in the Doncic-Young draft-night swap?
The latest status update on both questions will come when the Mavericks return to Dallas on Tuesday night to face the Sacramento Kings. The Mavs will be looking for consecutive victories for the first time since games on Feb. 2 and Feb. 6.
Dallas' swift fall down the Western Conference standings has put the Mavs in danger of losing their 2019 first-round draft pick when only months ago they harbored hopes of making a run at a playoff spot. Winning has practically come to a halt: The Mavericks are 3-15 since Feb. 10.
One of the victories in that span came in the most recent game, when Dallas stunned the Golden State Warriors 126-91 in Oakland, Calif.
Dallas will retain its first-round pick if it doesn't fall in the top five this year or next year, or in the top three in 2021 and 2022. The selection is unprotected in 2023.
The Mavericks' return in the trade, Doncic, a 6-foot-7 sensation from Slovenia, is looking to boost his Rookie of the Year credentials Tuesday. He certainly will hope to top his 4-of-19 shooting and just three assists in a 116-100 loss at Sacramento last week.
Doncic has spent the entire season as the front-runner for the rookie award, but Young's exhilarating play of late -- 25.3 points, 8.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds since the All-Star break -- has some questioning whether the race is truly over.
Former Mavs assistant and current Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts, a University of Oklahoma product was asked whether he believes Doncic will win Rookie of the Year.
"You know, I don't want to go against my Oklahoma guy (Young)," Stotts said, "but it certainly looks like it."
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle responded with a chuckle: "Wow, what a bold prediction. (Stotts) really put himself out there, didn't he? I don't like to count chickens before they're hatched, but it's pretty clear that Luka is having a phenomenal year. I know other rookies are playing well, but his level has been truly special."
Although the Kings are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, they would have to go on a monumental tear to get in. More realistic is playing for a winning record for the first time since they went 44-38 in the 2005-06 season, also the last time Sacramento made the playoffs.
With a win in Dallas, the Kings would even their record at 37-37 with eight games remaining. The hopes of finishing above .500 took a hit Sunday with a 111-106 road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on the second night of a back-to-back.
"Lack of energy and miscommunication," Kings guard Buddy Hield told reporters after the defeat Sunday. "You can't say we were tired. They played at a higher level than us tonight, there's no excuse."
Rested, the Kings look to get back in the win column against a fading Dallas team that Sacramento has beaten in both previous meetings this season.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 25, 2019