LAS VEGAS -- Frustration is mounting for Dallas Mavericks fans. As the team prepares to play its final game before the tournament round of Summer League play gets underway, there's only one thing on the fans' mind. When will Luka Doncic play?
It's easy to understand why fans' emotions are getting short. Dallas, as it is wont to do, hasn't been particularly forthcoming about Doncic's status. He is with the team in Las Vegas but isn't participating in live practices. Summer League head coach Jamahl Mosley sounds like a broken record when asked about him, repeating time and again that "Luka is TBD." Even with the vagueness, there's a clear answer to whether Doncic will play or not: He won't.
The other day a team official said that Doncic won't play because of his buyout hasn't been completed and he therefore hasn't signed his contract that would allow him to suit up here in the desert. That same official said everything could be completed by next week.
While that's all accurate, it isn't the whole story. Reports surfaced that Real Madrid finalized Doncic's $2 million buyout several days ago. Dallas dragged its feet before finishing its paperwork. With that is done, he still need a letter of clearance from FIBA as well. Again, the Mavericks seem be in no rush to resolve the situation and that appears to be intentional. The two mutually agreed that he would sit out Summer League before it ever began, according to one report. If this is the case, it says lot about the team's efforts to protect Doncic through subterfuge.
On the night of the draft back in June, head coach Rick Carlisle said he wasn't sure if Doncic will play in Summer League because he just wrapped up Euroleague play. He doubled down on that at a practice prior to leaving for Vegas when he addressed Doncic's contract status. Carlisle also hit a common refrain saying that the team simply wants him to rest.
So for the Mavericks, it's more of the same. They aren't being completely misleading about Doncic's but they aren't being transparent about it either. C'est la vie.
Dallas sits at 1-1 and will take on the Warriors this afternoon. As will everything at Summer League, there are flashes of good mixed in with disappointment and a generally sloppy environment. It's an apt metaphor for Las Vegas. For Mavs fans, the disappointment isn't a result of on-court performance. Instead, it comes from not seeing the team's top draft pick in the court. If you want to see Doncic in Vegas, you can catch him on the Mavs' bench joking with Darrell Armstrong. Sometimes reality is frustrating.