LOS ANGELES – Although he went through the Dallas Mavericks’ full practice session on Monday at the Terasaki Budokan facilities without a hitch, point guard Luka Doncic is listed as questionable for Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Doncic has missed the last three games after spraining his left knee and left ankle with 44 seconds remaining in the Mavs’ Nov. 15 win over the Denver Nuggets. Coach Jason Kidd said Doncic: “Looked great. He went through everything and he looked great.”
However, when the Mavs were going through a 5-on-5 scrimmage after practice was over, Doncic gingerly walked off the court and didn’t appear too happy as he sat down in the bleachers and grabbed his left knee.
Without Doncic, the Mavs have had all sort of problems executing and getting off great shots in the critical stages of the past three games. In two games in Phoenix this past week, the Mavs lost to the Suns by seven points last Wednesday and by eight points last Friday in what were perceived to be winnable games had their late-game offensive execution been on-point.
And late-game execution is something Doncic strives on.
“You have to go through it and you have to recognize what we can do better,” Kidd said of the lack of late-game execution. “The last three games have been very similar. Trying to get a stop defensively, and then on offense being able to get good-to-great shots.
“We talked about it here on this road trip, and hopefully tomorrow we can execute it, not just the first three quarters, but in the fourth quarter, too.”
While Doncic may or may not play Tuesday, reserve guard Frank Ntilikina will miss Tuesday’s game with a right calf strain. Ntilikina was injured in the first half of Sunday’s contest against the Clippers, spoiling what has been a very promising season so far for one of the Mavs’ prime offseason acquisitions.
“I think Frank has been great for us,” Kidd said. “To come in as the 15th guy and to be able to go and take advantage of this playing time – he’s been great for us defensively.
“And on the offensive end also, being able to run the point guard, and playing with Luka and playing with JB (Jalen Brunson). He’s quiet, he’s a great young man on and off the floor and we’re very lucky to have him.”
Be it Doncic, Brunson or Ntilikina, Kidd has this unique way of empowering his players by giving them more freedom to negotiate their way through issues on the court.
“It’s the trust,” Kidd said. “We talk about trust, we talk about giving them the opportunity to be creative. They’re basketball players. That’s the biggest thing.
“We trust them to try to make the right play for their teammates or for themselves. For Brunson, for Luka, for the guys who handle the ball, we trust them to run the right play.”
The Mavs (9-7) hope that trust will pay off when they tip off against the Clippers (10-7) at 9:30 p.m. CT on Tuesday at STAPLES Center.
“Those guys have done a great job up to this point,” Kidd said. “We just have to make shots.
“We missed a lot of open shots, but we believe as the season goes along, we’ll be able to make those shots.”
ARENA NAME CHANGE: Tuesday will be the final time the Mavs play a game in STAPLES Center.
In a major naming rights deal that involves $700 million, STAPLES Center will officially change to the Crypto.com Arena on Christmas day when the Los Angeles Lakers host the Brooklyn Nets. In his reaction to the arena’s name change, coach Jason Kidd said: “Just as long as they don’t move the stadium. The names come and go.
“Crypto’s part of our world now, which is kind of cool. You pay that type of money and things change.”
Owner Mark Cuban is a big fan of the arena’s name change.
“I thought it was a brilliant deal,” Cuban said. “The crypto companies like Crypto.com, Voyager, FTX, they’re crushing it. I wish I made as much money as they did. It’s unbelievable.
“The only problem is unlike the early days with the Internet where they were all U.S.-based, because of a lot of the uncertainty with crypto regulations, you’ve got these companies based outside of the United States run by Americans. That’s the only issue I have is that how do we get them back here to the states, but beyond that it’s brilliant.”
As far as going into the Crypto.com Arena for the first time when the Mavs play the Lakers on March 1, Cuban said: “We don’t care what’s on the outside of the building. We just care what happens on the inside.”
WILL KLEBER’S MINUTES INCREASE TUESDAY?: Coach Jason Kidd was very impressed with what the Mavs were able to get from Maci Kleber during Sunday’s 97-91 loss to the Clippers.
In his first game since missing nine contests with a left oblique strain, Kleber played 20 minutes and scored five points, grabbed four rebounds sand blocked a shot. Asked if Kleber – who is listed as probable for Tuesday’s game – will have his minutes increased on Tuesday, coach Jason Kidd said: “We’ll see what happens as the game goes, how he feels.
“It’s tough to throw someone out there and play them 35 minutes or 30 minutes after being out for a while. Hopefully we can give him more minutes. He felt good yesterday.”
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