LeBron, Wilt, NBA refs and does he really own a farm in Slovenia?


LOS ANGELES — Luka Doncic has faced the Lakers and his NBA idol, LeBron James, for five seasons now.

And while sharing the same court as James is far less nerve-racking than it used to be, the experience never gets old. Nor, certainly, is it a privilege that Doncic takes for granted, especially with 38-year-old James now in his 20th season and nearing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA career scoring record.

After the Mavericks’ morning shootaround in Crypto.com Arena in preparation for Thursday night’s late game against the Lakers, a noticeably relaxed and even gregarious Doncic was asked about an array of topics by a small group of reporters.

Here are some of the questions and answers, lightly edited for context and brevity:

Q: You always hear questions like, “You’re the first guy to do this since Wilt Chamberlain” or “only guy other than Wilt Chamberlain.” How much do you actually know about Wilt?

Doncic: I know he’s got all the records. But I don’t know. I wasn’t born yet, so I don’t know much.

Q: Have you ever watched highlights or checked him out on YouTube?

Doncic: Yeah, I mean, I saw a lot of highlights. It was pretty impressive. But I’ve never watched like a whole game.

Q: Do you think you’ve become any more of an NBA historian since you’ve come into the league and seen these names? Have you tried to learn more about other guys, too?

Doncic: I mean, there’s a lot of names. Nowadays, almost every game there’s a new record. They’re just, I think, making up stats a little bit now. But, yeah, all the players that I couldn’t watch, I always see the highlights. It’s really amazing.

Q: You’ve been one of the best scorers in the league since you came in. Do you ever think about how long it would take or how much it would take to get close to the scoring record like LeBron is now?

Doncic: I’m in my fifth season. I’m thinking about today’s game, not the scoring record.

Q: In the scope of that achievement for LeBron, does it make you set any goals for yourself in terms of longevity?

Doncic: I have no goals. Probably as long as my body can hold [up]. Like I’ve said, ‘20 years, it’s a lot of years.’ I don’t know. I’m going to go to my farm.

Q: You don’t actually have a farm yet, do you?

Doncic: No. I’ll find a place. In Slovenia. I have a friend who has a farm, so I’m learning there.

Q: Livestock? Do they grow vegetables?

Doncic: They have milk, vegetables, cheese, everything. Whatever you need.

Q: Are we going to see “Luka Cheese” someday?

Doncic: My friend makes that, so I don’t want to be his competition. Maybe he’ll stop so I can make it.

Q: Jason Kidd talked about your defense and said that it’s it’s coming along really nicely, especially when you’re playing a low position, with your verticality. Can you talk about how that’s evolved?

Doncic: Well, I don’t know about the verticality…

Q: Not the jumping. The staying in your place.

Doncic: Like I’ve said, at the beginning of the season it was my goal to get better on defense. I think I made a step forward, but I still think there’s a lot of improvement left, especially with how Coach Kidd and Coach Sweeney have helped me a lot in that situation.

Q: Obviously emotions are part of your interactions with officials. As a guy who’s difficult to officiate because you create so much contact, have you figured out an effective way to talk to officials?

Doncic: Well, there is, for sure. I feel like I change a little bit when I go on the basketball court. Off the court, I’m not an angry person. You can ask anybody.

Q: What have you found is the most effective?

Doncic: You just got to talk to them, talk to them in a normal way. Without yelling. Without just being mad. Just talk to them.

Q: When you do get angry, what language do you use?

Doncic: I don’t know. Everything comes out a little bit. That’s the benefit of knowing a lot of languages.

Q: You’ve got three that you can choose that they don’t understand.

Doncic: Sure. I know some bad words in other languages, too… That’s what everyone learns first.

Q: You’ve been facing LeBron’s teams going on five years now. Can you compare when you first started going against LeBron to now? Do you think you are a lot more comfortable and game-oriented?

Doncic: Yeah, for sure, I was nervous. I remember in L.A. my first game when I played against him. For sure I’m way more comfortable now. I’m not as nervous as I used to be. But it’s always a pleasure when you go against players like that. And especially LeBron, who’s been in this league for 20 years at the high level, every single game. So it’s really a blessing to go against him.

Q: When did you start watching him?

Doncic: I don’t know exactly when. You keep asking me when. I don’t know the exact date, exact hour. But you know, LeBron was LeBron. Everybody watched him. And again I couldn’t watch a lot of NBA games because I had to go to school.

Q: You mentioned the first game here. What do you remember most about that?

Doncic: Well I remember the two blocks.

Q: What was your nervousness level?

Doncic: Yeah, I was pretty nervous. Like I say, to against a guy like that that you’ve been watching almost your whole life. Just playing against him, actually, was a dream come true. It was a game that I’ll never forget.

Q: What did you do with the jersey you got from him that night?

Doncic: It’s in Dallas, actually. I’ve got a couple of jerseys in Slovenia and a couple in Dallas.

Find more Mavericks coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.

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