Luka Doncic appeared on JJ Redick’s podcast Old Man and the Three Friday morning. Luka is a notoriously difficult interview because of his tendency to give short, non descript answers. It is important to note that English is Luka’s third language, so it should not be shocking that it takes some work to get Luka to open up.
The podcast begins with Redick joking about some gambling that he and Luka had previously done which seemed to put Luka at ease. They then discussed the Mavericks improved defense with Luka joking that he definitely deserves to be on the third team all defensive team.(There is no third team for those of you who do not follow such things.)
Luka has improved defensively quite a bit and there has even been a bit of push among some fans for his defensive improvement to be rewarded with an all defensive team selection. He does have excellent advanced defensive numbers, largely due to his rebounding and team success. Not belonging on an all defensive team does not invalidate his defensive improvement.
Luka did touch on his lack of fitness coming into the season. Luka admitted to not prioritizing physical fitness enough, choosing to focus on basketball skills rather than physical training.
Luka’s game is skill based so it makes sense that he works hard on his skills, but it appears that he has realized that getting himself into the best shape puts him into the best position to utilize his skills. This is an extremely positive development going forward if Luka truly prioritizes fitness.
They discussed the differences in European and NBA basketball games. One of the most illuminating things from this discussion was that Luka develops many of his signature moves by simply doing them in games rather than practicing them extensively beforehand. His signature step back three, for instance, just happened in a game against Houston and he then began practicing it and using it extensively.
The freedom with which Luka plays is important because many of his best plays are not plays you would teach a child to do. One of his most fun plays was a one legged three he took against the Clippers last season. Seriously, who would even think to try a one legged fade away three in an NBA playoff game other than Luka?
It was also interesting hearing how Luka’s father playing professionally influenced his game. There is a trend amongst former players’ children becoming stars and Luka is no exception. Being around professional basketball from such a young age is a great incubator of young talent as we have seen with other superstars such as Stephen Curry.
The most interesting part of the entire podcast was hearing Luka talk about sizing up defenders. Luka often appears to simply dance with the ball for a while without any goal. He mentioned in this podcast that he is actually sizing up the help defender and timing his drive so that it coincides with the help defender having to vacate the lane in order to avoid a defensive three second call.
Luka is essentially taking it as a foregone conclusion that he will beat his own defender, but is manipulating the help defense through time. Luka joked that he was giving away his secrets when Redick asked him about this but there really isn’t much the defense can do. Luka has free reign to control the ball as long as he wants and the defensive three second rule is not going away.
Luka’s basketball IQ has always been extremely evident, but the degree to which he is playing chess in three dimensions has never been more clear than after hearing this. Finally, Luka finished up talking up his good friend Jalen Brunson which underscores how important it is for the Mavericks to retain him.
This was a fun podcast and a must listen for any Mavericks fan. Luka is an elite basketball player, but generally a subpar interview subject. Redick having been a teammate of Luka seemed to disarm him a little bit and make him more forthcoming which led to one of the most illuminating discussions Luka has had in his young career.