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At the end of each of Luka Doncic’s 65 pregame warm-ups this season, he made a bet with his go-to assistants, Igor Kokoskov and Peter Patton.
Make 1 of 3 attempts at a half-court shot to finish the session, and Luka wins.
Otherwise, coaches get bragging rights until the next.
What’s on the line?
”A lot of money,” Patton told me. “A lot of pride.”
And who’s winning?
”I would love to tell you I’m up on the year,” Patton said. “And I’m not — and I pray to God he doesn’t call me on it.”
Take Patton’s word for it as a Mavericks assistant since Luka got to Dallas or take the word of almost anyone who’s challenged Luka in any way since he became a handsomely paid NBA star with excess funds to wager:
Count out Luka at your own risk.
The Mavs opened as 1.5-point underdogs in most major sportsbooks soon after their first-round series against the Utah Jazz became official. As of Thursday afternoon, the spreads had dropped to as low as Jazz minus-5.
No doubt Utah’s All-Star duo and veteran rotation has the upper hand in playoff experience. And, of course, the calf strain Luka suffered in the regular-season finale Sunday night has cast major uncertainty around his availability and the Mavs’ chances.
I’m not here to say Luka will come back from the injury and dominate, per usual.
The truth is, I don’t know. The Mavericks don’t know. Luka’s calf doesn’t even know.
They’re doing everything they can to treat and rehab the strain while he tries to keep his endurance and strength up. They’ll see how it responds to the methods and modalities just before Game 1 on Saturday afternoon, Game 2 on Monday night, and so on.
Luka is crazy good at basketball, but he’s not a cyborg.
But, if he is healthy enough to play and not risk further injury, it’s worth remembering all the times he’s defied the odds.
Luka has cost Rick Carlisle hundreds of pesos, JJ Redick a lot of money and on-air podcast grievances, Jason Kidd his satisfaction in airplane poker.
And he and the Mavs are doing their best to try and make sure this injury doesn’t cost them a legitimate shot at a deep playoff run, too.
— Stay in the know on the road. Follow Callie on Twitter.
Photo of the week
Luka’s final season averages over 65 games: 28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, 8.7 assists, 1.2 steals; 45.7% FG, 35.3% 3FG, 74.4% FT in 35.4 minutes per game
Best of the week: This is where I’d highlight Luka narrowly avoiding his first NBA suspension, thanks to the league rescinding what would’ve been his 16th technical foul last Friday night against the Trail Blazers.
Buuuuuut, his eligibility to play Sunday night against the Spurs actually put him in position to strain his left calf when he planted his leg to change directions after making a pass in traffic, so his avoidance of tech No. 16 might feel costlier than a game check.
Let’s just say Luka’s had better weeks.
Watch for this next: He’ll either be active in the starting lineup for Games 1, 2 or 3 over the next week or active in his sideline chatter. Luka joked earlier this season about serving as the “10th coach” while sidelined with ankle and knee sprains, so if he can’t start the series on the court, he’ll be sure to chime in with his observations during huddles and breaks and likely in some bench-side chirping with Theo Pinson and the gang.
Rudy Gobert couldn’t get off that easy.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism