It was just six weeks ago that the NBA world quaked a little when reports of Luka Dončić’s unhappiness first slithered out of Dallas. A report of strange dude in the front office who had somehow charmed Mark Cuban. Dissatisfaction with the roster around him. Then some longtime organizational stalwarts started jumping off the ship, like coach Rick Carlisle who thought Indiana was a better spot for him. And then longtime GM Donnie Nelson. It definitely appeared all was not right, which had teams that didn’t have a Dončić-level player positioning themselves to be available if Dončić started surveying the field, should the opportunity arise.
But $207 million over five years tends to salve a lot of wounds.
That’s what Dončić will make after signing his max extension yesterday, with a new coach and GM on board and that strange dude, Haralabos Voulgaris (my favorite QOTSA album) now having an undefined role.
The contract doesn’t leave the Mavs much wiggle room to add to their team, though most of the attractive pieces in free agency have all chosen their destinations. They’ll hope continued growth from Dončić and Kristaps Porzingis sees them reach farther than the first round, where they’ve bitten it the past two seasons, and maybe to fleece someone in a trade or two.
As we know, these contracts don’t lock a player down for good like everyone hopes. If the Mavs don’t improve at a rate that Dončić finds acceptable, he can pressure them to move him along in about two or three years. Jason Kidd will know that he’ll have to look a lot better as coach this time around, or he’ll be canned in an instant.
Dončić’s game will have to adjust to the new rules governing foul-hunting, as he spent a good portion of last year doing a James Harden impression with more whining to refs. There’s little doubt he can, but it’s something worth watching.
Still, the Mavs become one of the more interesting watches in the West because they’re now on the Dončić Clock. Chris Paul can’t keep doing this until he’s 40. Same goes for LeBron in L.A. The Clippers, Dončić’s conquerors the past two seasons, are always a good bet to be more weird than good. There may be a path opening up over the next couple years in the West. The Mavericks couldn’t follow it without Dončić. No matter the fissures within the organization that appeared, it did everything it could to keep him. Which always starts with a gorge filled with money.