> On League Pass: Mavs vs. Pistons from Mexico City (8 ET)
Roughly 100 media members waited two hours for the Mavericks’ team bus to roll up to the hotel.
Luka was coming.
Dallas boasts the most Spanish-speaking NBA players among the four teams in Mexico City this week. Kristaps Porzingis, J.J. Barea and Boban Marjanovic are all fluent in the language. Former Maverick and Mexico native Eduardo Nájera is still with the team.
And Luka was coming.
When the pair of dark-tinted buses rolled up, cell phones and cameras were hoisted up. One by one the players exited, each drawing some reaction. But nothing compared to the buzz when Doncic finally set foot on Mexican soil (or sidewalk, in this case).
Some of the media and fans tried to get his attention, but the Slovenian sensation remained deep within his hoodie. It was hard to blame him. The Mavericks had arrived well after their scheduled time, fighting the Mexico City traffic that is even more gummed up as the holidays approach.
But this is the life Doncic and the Mavericks, early Western Conference contenders with a 16-7 record, now live wherever they go, other countries included.
Because Doncic — a Slovenian-born, Spanish-speaking NBA standout — has the kind of star power that already ignores borders and breaks down language barriers.
“He’s a lightning bolt everywhere,” said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle. “This is not new territory for him or for us. He’s one of the most popular players in the world. He’s one of the best players in the world. He creates a lot of excitement wherever he goes.”
Several Mavericks players greeted the media after settling into their hotel rooms. Carlisle, Porzingis and Barea each were swarmed.
When it was his turn, Doncic was all but mobbed.
In Spanish that would have made his Real Madrid coaches proud, Doncic answered the questions the Latin American community wanted to ask for themselves.
Doncic said Barea’s championship experience has helped him a lot. NBA basketball is very different from EuroLeague. No, he’s not going to indulge in Kia MVP or championship talk in December. It’s only his second year and he hasn’t done anything compared to Michael Jordan. He considers the Lakers, Clippers and Bucks as contenders off the top of his head. His best advice for young basketball hopefuls is work and have fun.
The fun is what Doncic hopes Latin American fans take away from this week’s games, starting Thursday night with Dallas going up against the Pistons. If last season’s games are any indication, the 20,000-plus capacity Arena de la Ciudad de México will be sold out. There is no certainty that Dallas will be among the next group of teams selected to play in these games going forward. This is, for now, their only opportunity to see Doncic in person without traveling over 1,100 miles to Dallas.
“I hope they enjoy our game when we play tomorrow,” Doncic said. “It’s a pleasure for us to be here. We’re going to enjoy it, for sure.”
One media member asked him what he would enjoy most.
Could you be more specific?
“Playing basketball,” he repeated with a smile.
Odds are Latin America will enjoy it, too.