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What’s really weighing on the Mavericks

Luka’s weight and conditioning took center stage this week

Dallas Mavericks v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

The season of giving hasn’t exactly been kind to the Dallas Mavericks of late. Coming in to a Tuesday night match against a 16-7 Brooklyn Nets squad, the Mavericks were sporting a 1-3 record in the month of December. A nationally televised game, the Mavericks-Nets match was one to watch, if nothing else it would give a national audience a glimpse into the current woes weighing on the suddenly struggling Mavericks. Instead, a whole other type of weight took center stage instead.

Even as the Mavericks took an early lead and looked a lot more efficient, the national audience, via the TNT broadcast, were treated to analyst Reggie Miller’s thoughts about the Mavericks’ supermax superstar, Luka Doncic — specifically, about Doncic’s health and overall conditioning.

“Looking at him, this is the heaviest I’ve probably ever seen Luka look, right now,” Miller said.

Miller did add that Doncic had had a long year and acknowledged Doncic’s participation at the Tokyo Olympics. “But look how he’s plodding up and down. He’s not really running,” Miller concluded.

Earlier in the day, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon had reported on the Lowe Post that according to sources, Doncic reported to camp at 260 pounds the past two seasons.

Coming in to the Nets game, Doncic was listed by the Mavericks as probable with a thumb sprain as well as a lingering left ankle issue. And to his credit, Miller again made sure to acknowledge Doncic’s injuries as well as the physical toll of making a deep run in Olympic basketball with Team Slovenia.

“He is a superstar in the making already. But he could be so much better. And he will get better.” Miller paused before adding the sentence that kick-started the narrative of the evening.

“But to me, he’s got to trim down. He really does.”

Miller was co-signed by fellow TNT broadcaster Kevin Harlan who dropped this addition to the weight talk. “My eyes tell me he’s a little heavier.”

This recent iteration of the Dallas Mavericks are confusing, to say the least. Just days after the Mavericks shot a franchise record 68.7% from the field against the New Orleans Pelicans, the same team would go on to shoot a substandard 40% from the field against the Nets, with a dismal 19.6% from 3 to boot.

The Mavericks held a sizeable lead over the Nets for most of the game, including a game-high 17-point lead in the third quarter. The Nets invariably cut into that Dallas lead and went ahead as the game was winding down. In the final 20-seconds, the Mavericks scrambled to connect on a 3 — Dallas had made 9-of-46 from 3 at this point — but couldn’t drain one in the eventual loss.

During the post-game remarks, Mavericks personnel had plenty to say about this particular loss.

“We’re a jump-shooting team that’s not making jump shots,” said head coach Jason Kidd.

The questions quickly turned from the team’s shooting woes to the narrative du jour: Doncic’s weight and conditioning.

“Well, when I got here, this is who he is, so that’s all I can really say is that this is how I’ve seen Luka”, Kidd said. The head coach clearly has not noticed a difference in his supermax superstar, regardless of what the TNT booth had to say.

Instead of talking about how Dallas needs to improve, the narrative seemed stalled on the resurgence of the annual ‘Is Luka Too Heavy’ discussion. And look, Doncic himself has addressed his conditioning woes last season.

“I don’t know, I had a long summer. Took three weeks off and relaxed a little bit. Maybe too much,” Doncic acknowledged.

Doncic has faced this very topic since he entered the 2018 draft. He knows it, the team knows it, and now a national audience knows it, too.

Ultimately, Doncic will have to buckle down and really get serious about his game-conditioning. Watching him bang against James Johnson on Tuesday night, and watching him look timid at times especially when he had chances to attack the rim, it’s clear his shape and lingering injuries are wrecking havoc on his game.

But he’s still Luka. He’s still making ridiculous passes, still leading the team in several categories, all while battling through injuries. He’s less explosive, yes, but that can be remedied. This isn’t the first time this season Doncic’s game-conditioning has been a topic of discussion.

The focus really should be on what’s weighing down the Mavericks as they struggle to climb back to .500. Perhaps Kristaps Porzingis put it best in the post-game after the loss to the Nets.

“Catastrophic,” Porzingis stated.

There’s a lot weighing down on the Mavericks for sure, but Doncic is by far the least of this team’s woes. Maybe the narrative should be that Luka Doncic’s weight issues are tied to him having to carry this team every night.

Talk about that.