Luka Doncic will take a leaf out of the books of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and add a new crinkle to his game next season, according to Rick Carlisle.
The Dallas Mavericks’ season came to an end on Sunday as the Los Angeles Clippers secured a 111-97 victory to win their first-round playoff series 4-2.
The fact they pushed one of the favourites to six games owed much to Doncic, who averaged 31 points, 9.8 rebounds and 8.7 assists during a stellar series at the end of his second year in the NBA.
“He’s one of the toughest players that I’ve ever seen in this league, and that goes back 35 or 36 years,” Mavericks coach Carlisle told reporters.
“He is a great young player that’s getting better each year. He’s Rookie of the Year last year, this year’s up for Most Improved [Player]. I’d like to know if that’s ever happened before.
“I expect that he’ll come back next year even better with something new in his game. The same way that [Larry] Bird and Magic [Johnson] and [Michael] Jordan, all those great players did every summer. Now, it’s going to be a fall whenever we reconvene as a league again.
“But he has an irrepressible enthusiasm for the game, for his team-mates and for winning.
“Today it was hard getting him out of the game. Second half we didn’t do it until the very end.
“We’re so fortunate to have him and now we’ve got to get our roster completely healthy and keep working to get the right players around him.”
When that was put to Doncic, the Slovenian said he would spend the offseason trying to hone his shooting.
Doncic averaged 28.8 points in 2019-20 regular season – the sixth-best total in the league – up from 21.2 in his rookie season.
“There’s a lot of things to improve on,” he admitted.
“You cannot work just on one thing, you’ve got to work on everything. But I think I’ll especially work on my shooting – that’s my key.”
Despite the disappointment of a first-round exit in the post-season, Doncic was pleased with how hard the Mavs pushed the Clippers.
“A great season,” he added when asked to sum up the campaign. “I’m proud of our team, how we fight. I think we fight until the end.
“The Clippers have an amazing team. It was hard but I think we give everything. We played especially hard in the playoffs and I’m proud of our guys.”