While the Dallas Mavericks got off to a strong start under new head coach Jason Kidd, there were some warning signs that perhaps they weren’t quite as good as their 9-4 record indicated. And sure enough, things have started to fall apart in recent weeks. They’re just 3-9 since then, to fall to 12-13 and eighth place in the Western Conference. To make matters worse, star guard Luka Doncic has been dealing with a lingering ankle injury, and will miss multiple games according to veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein. As of now, no official timetable has been set for Doncic’s return to the lineup.
Doncic initially hurt his ankle on Nov. 15 in the waning seconds of a win over the Denver Nuggets. After Doncic went up to contest a shot by Austin Rivers, the Nuggets guard landed on his leg and caused it to twist awkwardly. Doncic missed the next three games with ankle and knee soreness, but later returned to the lineup and continued to put up big numbers. The pain in his ankle, however, hasn’t gone away.
He sat out against the Memphis Grizzlies earlier this month due to his ankle, and admitted that he probably should not have been playing the fourth quarter of the Mavericks’ most recent outing, a loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday. “I probably shouldn’t have played in the fourth,” Doncic said. “I wasn’t feeling very good, but I tried to be out there.”
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The Mavericks’ medical staff clearly agrees, and Doncic is now heading for another spell on the sidelines, which will begin on Sunday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. They’ll then return home for the second night of a back-to-back against the Charlotte Hornets on Monday, before a showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night. It remains to be seen if Doncic will be ready for that one.
So far this season, the Mavericks are 0-4 without Doncic and 12-9 when he plays. That’s not exactly surprising given his abilities and the lack of talent around him. Even if he hasn’t been at his best this season — there have been concerns that he looks out of shape, and he admitted recently that he needs to improve his conditioning — he’s still putting up 25.6 points, eight rebounds and 8.5 assists per game. The Mavericks can’t just replace that kind of production.
The good news for Dallas is that the Thunder are one of the worst teams in the league, so they might be able to take care of business Sunday without Doncic. Beyond that, however, the Mavs are going to be in trouble if Doncic remains out of the lineup for an extended period.