There are lots of great and swell reasons to be excited for Luka Doncic making and starting his first All-Star game. it’s a special moment for a 20-year-old superstar, he gets to play next to his idol and be recognized as one of the bright, young, exciting faces of the league.
That all is fine. Really great stuff! Now, forget all of it. Because I only care about one thing — colluding the hell out of some free agents.
It’s no secret that in the player empowerment era of player movement we’re in, set off by LeBron James forming a super team in Miami, that these deals typically don’t get done in July but months and sometimes years in advance. LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh bonded over Team USA. Draymond Green called Kevin Durant in a parking lot of the Warriors lost the Finals in 2016. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have roots together in Southern California. Hell, LeBron basically started the Anthony Davis sweepstakes while regular season games where still being played.
Forming these relationships is second nature for a lot of these guys. They played together in AAU growing up, they play together during international competitions and they play together during the All-Star game. For Luka, he’s at a disadvantage. He obviously didn’t grow up playing with his peers and he’ll never share a locker room with them over the summer. That’s why him making an All-Star game so early and playing and participating in the weekend events is so important. This is his chance to form the relationships that can pay off down the line.
So watching Luka this weekend was an absolute joy. He was having a blast.
He didn’t have an eye-popping performance in the actual All-Star game (though he did have his moments), but it almost doesn’t matter. What matters is that Luka acquainted himself with the best players in the NBA. And those players gravitated a bit toward him.
I mean, just look at this picture:
Luka’s youthful energy and “been there, done that” experience from Europe gives him the edge that Dirk Nowitzki just never had. Bless Dirk, but with his more humble origin as a basketball player, he was more just happy to be there, despite being one of the greatest player’s the league had ever seen. Luka is a star and he knows he’s a star, even with that boyish smile.
So Devin Booker is a free agent in 2024. Luka will just be 24-years-old. Ben Simmons and the 76ers appear to be in a rocky situation, despite all their talent. Rudy Gobert will be free in 2022 and we all know how much the Mavericks front office love their Tyson Chandler archetype.
The Mavericks dour free agency history stinks. For most of the last decade they’ve relied on their organization’s reputation and the waning years of Dirk to sell the stars they desperately want. Now they have the prime years of Luka out in the open and he’s already making All-Star games at 20-years-old. I still hate the “keep the powder dry” strategy, but hell, if the Mavericks were to ever sign a big free agent, this would be when it would happen, right?
Hope you got into some group texts this weekend, Luka. Godspeed.