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Q&A: Christian Wood talks playing with Luka Doncic and his All-Star hopes

Dallas forward Christian Wood talks about settling into life with the Mavs, his varied role there and more.

Since becoming a regular starter on Dec. 17, Christian Wood is averaging 19.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg and 2.3 bpg.

LOS ANGELES — Have the Dallas Mavericks found the right co-star for Luka Doncic?

Entering Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers (10 p.m. ET, TNT), Doncic has received Kia MVP buzz with a league-best 34.2 points per game and nine triple-doubles (second in the NBA). But it has required Doncic to rank second in overall usage rate (37.8).

With last season’s co-stars Kristaps Porzingis and Jalen Brunson out of the picture, the Mavericks are pleased with what forward Christian Wood has brought to the team in his first season with Dallas.

“He gives us a dynamic that we haven’t had in a long time,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told “He’s somebody who can post up, make a 3, attack, close out, block a shot and rebound. He’s really helped us.”

Wood has averaged 17.8 ppg on 54.4% shooting, 8.0 rpg and 1.1 bpg after being acquired in a trade on Draft night. Wood has morphed from one of the NBA’s leading reserves to a recent starter, all while developing an improved chemistry with Doncic.

“They understand each other better,” Cuban said. “When they play high pick-and-roll, C-Wood knows where to go and what to do. Luka can trust him, and they can play off of each other. The chemistry has been really fun to watch.”

Wood spoke to about numerous topics including his chemistry with Doncic, his journey to Dallas and how he has persevered throughout his career.

Editor’s note: This conversation has been edited and condensed. Beyond the reps, what else has fostered your chemistry with Luka?

Wood: My ability to be decisive in the pick-and-roll and his ability to be a pick-and-roll maestro. We go well together. Teams switch up coverages with us. Sometimes, they put him in a drop. Sometimes, they double him. Sometimes, they show on him. Sometimes, they just switch. I just mix up my coverages. I’ve shown my ability to shoot the ball. I’m rolling out of double teams, so Luka has a secondary guy to create a 3-on-2 on the backside. I’m slipping out of screens when they switch. That’s caused a lot of problems for teams.

Luka said recently that you’ve handled it well when he’s yelled at you. What’s your dynamic like with him?

We’re both competitive. We look each other in the face, and both know that the other person wants to win. He knows how much I want to win because I haven’t really been in a winning situation in my career. He knows how much things mean to me. When he gets on me or I get on him, it’s all love. We laugh about it when we get off the court. Sometimes, Luka will say afterward, “Man, I said this!” And I’ll say, “Well, I said this, too!” Then we conclude, “It’s all good; we won the game!” Our relationship is great. It’s only getting better.

How has the relationship improved?

I don’t think we’ve even tapped into our full potential. This is my first season with him, and I just started with him as of late. As my minutes with him have increased, you see a lot more of us as a combo. It’s only getting better.

Christian Wood says he and star guard Luka Doncic are still growing as teammates.

What do you think is the full potential?

Hopefully a No. 1 seed in the West and a championship.

How do you get there?

Just talking and communicating. We’re good team guys, so we always communicate with other guys.

How have you handled the highs and lows of the season?

I try to build confidence with the team and build confidence with Luka because it’s his team. It’s about finding ways to impact winning. That’s a leadership role in itself with trying to impact winning, make a defensive play and do everything right offensively. It hasn’t always worked, but it will over time.

In regards to you two calling each other out, what are some examples of some of the competitive moments you’ve had with Luka?

Look at the New York game. It was a crazy game. We were down with 30 seconds left and some people in the stands were leaving. But when we got to the bench, we were telling each other, “We’re still going to win this game.” And we did. I hit a 3. Spencer [Dinwiddie] comes down and hits a 3. Then Luka gets fouled, makes the first throw, misses the second and then tips it in to force OT. The rest is history. You can’t beat that.

He knows how much I want to win because I haven’t really been in a winning situation in my career. He knows how much things mean to me. When he gets on me or I get on him, it’s all love.”

— Christian Wood, on his relationship with Luka Doncic

Where do you rank Luka’s 60-point triple-double performance that night against the Knicks?

That’s the most impressive thing I’ve seen a player do in my career so far. I played with a lot of guys, including Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and Luka. But I had never seen Giannis go for 60-20-10. That’s unheard of.

What do you remember about that night and everything that went into Luka’s big game?

Shots were falling. He was trying to do anything he could to help us win the game. New York was doing a good job with making shots and limiting other guys to force him to do everything. He took advantage of it.

Our recent Midseason Media Survey predicted that Luka will win Kia MVP. What edge does he have over the other candidates?

It’s his ability to get others involved and his ability to rebound as a point guard and score. [Nikola] Jokic reminds me of a taller Luka. But those three things are separating him from the rest of the pack. Hopefully, we start winning some of these games, and more people take notice.

How does the team lean on Luka’s brilliance without wearing him out, while also giving him enough support?

That comes with guys stepping up, including me, Spencer and Tim [Hardaway Jr.]. I’ve done a good job with helping him and taking some of the scoring-rebounding load off of him. There are times he can rest a game because he just had 50 [points] in 40 [minutes] the game beforehand. I think we’ve been doing a great job. As the season goes on, you hope guys will step up and take that load off of him. At the same time, we’re trying to win as many games as possible so we get a good seed for the playoffs.

Before, we barely said a few words to each other. Now we’re having full conversations with each other. We’re going to dinner, seeing each other and talking to each other. Our relationship has gotten better.”

— Christian Wood, on Mavs coach Jason Kidd

How did you deal initially with a bench role?

Initially, it was very difficult. I’m going to be honest. But I stayed levelheaded. I knew I was on a new team, a team that had just gotten to the Western Conference finals. I just wanted to do anything that could impact winning, whether that’s coming off the bench or starting.

I came off the bench before in my career, so it wasn’t anything new to me. It was about me embracing the role that the coaches put me in and how they see me fitting in with this team. I excelled in it. Then I started doing better and getting in rhythm and playing more games. Then I was starting with a couple of guys getting hurt, and I excelled in that starting role.

What are some examples of doing things to impact winning?

My defensive ability and my ability to protect the rim as of late, especially with guys like Maxi [Kleber] and Josh Green that are energetic defensive guys being out. I’m trying to protect the rim because that’s what my team needs. I’m scoring when things get stagnant or if Luka doesn’t have it going. Most of the time, he does. But when he doesn’t, I’m trying to be an effective scorer.

I’m starting not to care about getting dunked on by other guys. It happens. I dunk on people, and people dunk on me. That’s part of the league. It’s about being able to switch on guards. Usually teams play five-out and go small. So, I try to show that ability to switch on guards. I think my teammates are trusting me now to go block a shot. When teammates have that trust in you, it goes a long way.

Christian Wood delivers a 32-point performance in a win vs. Portland on Dec. 16.

Mavs GM Nico Harrison and Cuban both said it’s too early to talk extension, but Cuban stressed, “we’d like to keep him.” How does that land with you?

It sounds good that an owner wants to keep me for a part of this team. Hopefully, that will work itself out.

How has Jason Kidd been as a coach with you?

We have been communicating throughout the season. Before, we barely said a few words to each other. Now we’re having full conversations with each other. We’re going to dinner, seeing each other and talking to each other. Our relationship has gotten better.

What are the conversations like?

He’s just telling me how good I’m doing, what I can do better and where I can affect the game. He’s telling me where to be the low man to try to block some extra shots. It’s stuff of that nature.

Has he told you that you’re the definitive starter moving forward?

It’s game-by-game. But I’m happy to be starting. With a few guys being out, we’re still able to win games. It’s been huge for me.

You’ve had quite a journey with being on different losing teams and dealing with roster cuts. How have those challenges shaped you?

It’s crazy. It was about me staying resilient and not giving up on my dreams. It was about me believing I can be a factor in the NBA, I can play in the NBA and I can possibly be an All-Star in the NBA. I think if most guys were put in my position and cut that many times, they would’ve said, “Okay, I’m just going to go overseas or go to the G-League.” But I kept saying, “I’m going to keep attacking it.” I believed in myself.

What were the fork-in-the-road moments that tested you?

There was a time in China that I got cut. The GM told me that I wasn’t good enough to play in [the CBA]. When I was with Milwaukee, I also got cut there. I was learning from Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and playing a lot of 1-on-1 with him. I was averaging nearly 30 [points] and 15 [rebounds]. But I could never get an opportunity because of the guys in front of me. That is fine, but I still stayed with it.

(Editor’s Note: He averaged 29.3 points and 14.1 rebounds with the Bucks’ NBA G League team, the Wisconsin Herd, in 2018-19.)

How did you deal with the Rockets following the James Harden trade and the shift to rebuilding?

I loved Houston. It just didn’t work itself out. I had an opportunity thinking I would play with James [Harden] and John Wall. But James had his own decision to make to try to get to a winning environment. That’s understandable. I still averaged 20 [points] and 10 [rebounds] on a good percentage in Houston. Everything went great, but we couldn’t win. That’s usually how it goes when you lose your main guys. It was hard to figure out, but I still tried to make the best of it. With being a part of a rebuild, that wasn’t my thing. I was trying to come to Houston to try to win games after being in losing environments. I wanted to win. That was my main factor. But we hit a bump in the road with me wanting to win and them wanting to rebuild.

Beyond an NBA title, what other goals do you have this season?

I think I still have a good chance to make an All-Star team. I think I’ve been playing like an All-Star as a guy coming off the bench or starting.

What do you think are your chances that coaches will vote for you as a reserve?

If we can keep a top-five or top-four seeding in the West, I’m very confident. I think I got an argument.

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Mark Medina is a senior writer/analyst for You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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