Luka Doncic began his NBA career woefully out of shape. Watching the star rookie play actual games with a shirt under his jersey at 19 years old is an image hardcore Maverick fans should hold on to, particularly as he accelerates on his path to NBA stardom.
For the Dallas Mavericks, conditioning could be the key to a successful season. “When we were winning at a consistently high level before the rebuild, we would start fast and finish strong,” head coach Rick Carlisle said Monday. “That’s going to be one of the things we talk a lot about here. We talk about it with our conditioning, with the tempo of our practices; for Luka, KP, Hardaway, all our players, this is an extremely important thing. Building up that base and that mentality to start fast but also finish strong is extremely important.”
Anyone remotely online this summer first saw Luka Doncic enjoying a well earned and long vacation. By July, however, images appeared on Doncic’s social media feeds, showing him training and lifting weights, the start of a body transformation that was not possible while playing NBA games.
Heading into camp, Luka appears to be in the best shape of his brief NBA career, with Carlisle noting that he, “had a really committed summer working on getting in great condition.”
Kristaps Porzingis, however, clearly focused on strength and muscle during his long 19 month rehab following his ACL tear with the New York Knicks. Rick Carlisle made a key distinction in regard to Porzingis’ size, noting, “Strength now is not just being strong, but being functionally strong.”
The 7’2” Porzingis weights just 240 on his NBA.com page, and while he may register around the same weight this season, it’s safe to assume his body is in a better position to deal with the long and physical NBA season. For the Mavericks and Porzingis, that new conditioning work is about being strong, “in ways that put you in a position to be better balanced with everything that you’re doing,“ according to Carlisle. “That helps your skill set, your game, but it also helps you be in positions to land better and hopefully be in a position to be prevented from certain types of injuries.”
If the Mavericks want to make any noise this season, the physical conditioning of their two best players is a key concern. Though it may yet take a few seasons, we should see fewer games with Doncic’s hands on his knees in exhaustion and Porzingis hobbling due to another injury.
The Mavericks appear to be ready, healthy and hungry. With both Doncic and Porzingis heading into camp in great shape, Dallas hopes to have a bedrock to build upon for their playoff dreams.