Luka Doncic has travelled with the Dallas Mavericks for their upcoming road trip despite an ankle injury.

Mavs superstar Doncic injured his left ankle in the closing stages of Monday's win over the Denver Nuggets, in which he had 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

Losing Doncic for an extended period would represent a significant blow to Dallas, who have relied on the Slovenian for 23.7 per cent of their points this season – the sixth-highest share of any individual in the league.

But reports on Tuesday brought positive news for fans of Jason Kidd's 9-4 team.

ESPN said Doncic's injury was considered "not too serious", while it was reported the player was part of the Mavericks' travelling party as they embark on a four-game road trip.

Doncic would appear unlikely then to feature against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, but Dallas play the same team again on Friday ahead of a double-header at the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Clippers have eliminated Doncic and the Mavericks from the playoffs in the first round in each of the past two seasons.

However, Doncic has scored an outstanding 33.5 points per game across those two series, contributing to a career average against the Clippers of 31.4 points (regular season and playoffs).

He has contributed 24.9 points, 7.9 assists, 8.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals through 13 games so far this year.

DeMar DeRozan was at his brilliant best again as the Chicago Bulls routed the Los Angeles Lakers 121-103 in the NBA on Monday.

DeRozan is the face of the new-look Bulls and the four-time All-Star maintained his MVP-calibre start to the season with a game-high 38 points at Staples Center.

The 32-year-old, who joined the Bulls ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, had his fourth 35-plus point game of the month – tying a career high.

Chicago have won four of their past five games, having also trumped the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, on the back of Lonzo Ball's seven three-pointers in his 27-point display against former team the Lakers.

Zach LaVine added 26 points for the Bulls, who improved to 10-4 in the Eastern Conference after beating the Lakers for the first time since 2016, snapping an eight-game drought.

Without superstar LeBron James, Talen Horton-Tucker (28 points), Russell Westbrook (25 points) and Anthony Davis (20 points) led the stuttering Lakers (8-7).

 

 

Streaking Suns sizzle

Last season's NBA Finals runners-up the Phoenix Suns celebrated their ninth successive victory after outlasting the Minnesota Timberwolves 99-96. Devin Booker (29 points), Deandre Ayton (22 points and 12 rebounds) and Chris Paul (21 points) all starred on the road. Ayton is the only player this season to be averaging 15-plus points and 10-plus rebounds while shooting at least 60 per cent from the field.

Cade Cunningham joined Stephen Curry (twice), Trae Young and Jason Kidd as the only rookies in NBA history with 25 points, five three-pointers, eight rebounds and eight assists in a game. The number one draft pick, however, was unable to prevent the lowly Detroit Pistons falling 129-107 to the Sacramento Kings.

 

Doncic limps off court

The Dallas Mavericks took down reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets 111-101, but it appeared to have come at a cost. Mavericks star Luka Doncic limped off the court after rolling his ankle in the final minute of the game. Doncic had posted 23 points and 11 assists to help fuel the Mavericks. Jokic's 35-point and 16-rebound double-double was not enough for Denver.

Stephen Curry reached 40 points or more for the third time this season as the Golden State Warriors' electric start to the season continued with a 119-93 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Friday.

Curry finished with 40 points, including nine-for-17 three-pointers, along with five assists and four rebounds as the Warriors improved to 11-1.

The two-time MVP starred with 15 points in the third quarter alone, almost outscoring the Bulls as the Warriors piled on 35-17 points. Curry also passed Ray Allen's 3,358 all-time NBA mark for the most three-pointers made in regular season and playoffs games.

The result marks the Warriors' second-best ever start in franchise history, with their only loss coming in overtime against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Golden State are one of nine teams in NBA history to start the season without a regulation-time loss in their first 12 games, the best being the 2015-16 Warriors with 24 games.

 

Harden hits season high

James Harden backed up Wednesday's triple-double with a season-high 39 points including six three-pointers for the Brooklyn Nets in a 120-112 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. Harden got a double-double, with 12 assists along with five rebounds, while Kevin Durant added 28 points. Joe Harris shot six-for-six from three-point range in the first half, becoming the first player this season to achieve the feat.

Nikola Jokic returned from his one-game ban with a triple-double as the Denver Nuggets got past the Atlanta Hawks 105-96, with 22 points, 10 assists and 19 rebounds. Luka Doncic also registered a triple-double with 32 points, 12 rebounds and 15 assists as the Dallas Mavericks defeated the San Antonio Spurs 123-109.

Denis Schroder had a season-high 38 points as the Boston Celtics won 122-113 in overtime over the Milwaukee Bucks, who were without Giannis Antetokounmpo (ankle) and Khris Middleton (COVID-19).

 

LeBron-less Lakers floored

Carmelo Anthony scored one-for-12 from the field while starter Kent Bazemore finished with zero points as the Los Angeles Lakers, missing LeBron James, lost 107-83 to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Emerging point guard Ja Morant had five turnovers and shot 10-for-19 from the field as the Memphis Grizzlies were beaten by the Phoenix Suns 119-94.

Luka Doncic cannot always be "superhuman", Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd insists, after the preseason MVP favourite continued a mixed start to the campaign with an "average" night against the Chicago Bulls.

Mavericks superstar Doncic, now in his fourth year in the NBA, was expecting to be among the league's leading players in 2021-22.

Dallas are a competitive 7-4 through 11 games and their point forward has 24.5 points per game, but that is a considerable drop on last year's 27.7 or his 2019-20 peak of 28.8.

And Doncic, despite a sensational game-winning buzzer-beater against the Boston Celtics last week, is not helping the Mavs in the way his team would hope.

Only eight qualifying players – seven of them on teams with .250 records or worse – have a lower plus/minus per game than Doncic's -8.7.

That was -20 in Wednesday's 117-107 defeat to the Bulls despite the 22-year-old averaging close to his first triple-double of the season with 20 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

Doncic had four steals for only the sixth time in his career but also gave up four turnovers and is averaging 4.4 for the year, a new high.

"Luka was just average tonight," Kidd said. "We always expect him to be superhuman, but there's going to be nights in this season where he's going to be average.

"His average is really good, but he again had some great looks that didn't go down for him."

Indeed, Doncic made just six of 18 shots from the field and one of six from three-point range.

Although he is attempting more field goals than ever before (21.2 per game), his shooting is down to 43.3 per cent, including a career-low 28.6 per cent from three.

Kidd praised much-maligned team-mate Kristaps Porzingis, who "stepped up" with 22 points and 12 rebounds, but the Mavs clearly cannot afford a player, in Doncic, with a team-high 35.9 per cent usage rate to be missing both shots and passes.

"I think that's a question for him," Kidd said of Doncic's shooting woes. "When you look at the shots that he's taking, he's getting a lot of great looks.

"I think in the game of basketball, some go in, some don't. He still has to continue to be aggressive and take those looks. The ones that he's missing right now will fall for him – he just has to stay with it."

One tweak could be to get Doncic closer to the basket, with his shooting at the rim way up to 75.6 per cent. He has scored 40.1 per cent of his points in the paint this year (only marginally up on 40.0 per cent).

"His strength is being able to create on the perimeter for others and for himself, so that's something that we can definitely do, put him in the post to try to take some of the stress away from him having to work so hard," Kidd said. "That will come in due time as the season goes on."

Luka Doncic was compared to Dirk Nowitzki by Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd after netting a buzzer-beating three-pointer in Saturday's win over the Boston Celtics.

The 22-year-old finished with 33 points as the Mavericks edged out the Celtics 107-104 to move to 6-3 for the season and climb into third in the Western Conference.

With his latest last-gasp heroics, Doncic matched German legend Nowitzki for the most game-winning buzzer-beaters in Dallas' history with three.

Kidd featured in the same side as Nowitzki in his playing days and is enjoying seeing Doncic – widely regarded as Nowitzki's successor – continue to blossom.

"I played with a player like that before here; everybody knows the ball's going to 41 and he delivers," Kidd said.

"I think everyone knew the ball was going to 77 and he delivered.

"Luka did what he's done in the past by getting a shot off. He's done it so many times. It's a beautiful thing to watch in person."

The Mavericks have now won back-to-back games and return to action on Monday against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Joel Embiid starred as the Philadelphia 76ers extended their winning streak to six games by topping Eastern Conference hopefuls the Chicago Bulls 114-105 in the NBA on Saturday.

Embiid – last season's MVP runner-up – posted 30 points, 15 rebounds, three assists and two blocks to fuel the in-form 76ers on the road in Chicago.

He also made four of five three-pointers as the 76ers finished 50 per cent from beyond the arc, while Furkan Korkmaz (25 points) matched a career high with seven made threes.

It was a memorable night for 76ers head coach Doc Rivers, who celebrated his 1,000th career victory – the 10th NBA coach to achieve the feat.

 

Eastern Conference leaders the 76ers (8-2) have won eight of their first 10 games for the first time since a 10-0 start in 2000-01.

 

Doncic on the buzzer

Luka Doncic hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer as the Dallas Mavericks topped the Boston Celtics 107-104. Doncic finished with 33 points.

The Denver Nuggets edged the lowly Houston Rockets 95-94 behind reigning MVP Nikola Jokic. Along with 28 points and 14 rebounds, Jokic also made the crucial block on Jae'Sean Tate's drive to the basket as time expired.

Kyle Lowry put up a triple-double of 20 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists – the 19th of his career – to key the high-flying Miami Heat's 118-115 victory at home to the Utah Jazz. Donovan Mitchell's 37 points were not enough for the Jazz.

 

Westbrook headlines Lakers' woes

Without LeBron James (abdominal strain) and Anthony Davis (two points) only managing seven minutes, Russell Westbrook struggled in the 105-90 loss away to the Portland Trail Blazers. Westbrook made just one of 13 shots for eight points, while he turned the ball over on six occasions.

James Harden recorded his first triple-double of the season as the Brooklyn Nets claimed back-to-back wins for the first time this NBA campaign in a 117-91 victory over the lowly Detroit Pistons on Sunday.

Harden finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists after three quarters, while Nets team-mate Kevin Durant top-scored with 23 points but was ejected in the third quarter for shoving his elbow into Kelly Olynyk's face.

Former MVP Harden has had a slow start to 2021-22, however, he backed up his season-high 29 points against the Indiana Pacers on Friday with another impressive showing which will encourage the championship-chasing Nets (4-3) that he is getting back to his best after an injury-impacted offseason.

Harden hit four three-pointers as the superstar guard – already Brooklyn's all-time triple-double leader with 13 – joined Hall of Famer Larry Bird for second on the NBA's all-time list with 59.

 

Mitchell leads Jazz past struggling champs

Donovan Mitchell starred with 28 points, including a treble of first-quarters three-pointers as the Utah Jazz hit their first five attempts from range in a 107-95 win against slumping champions the Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Bucks, who have lost three in a row.

Carmelo Anthony – who is shooting a career-high 50 per cent and 52.2 per cent from three this season – scored 23 points off the bench, while LeBron James had 15 points, seven rebounds and assists in the Los Angeles Lakers' 95-85 triumph over the Houston Rockets.

Luka Doncic led the way for the Dallas Mavericks with 23 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists in a 105-99 victory against the Sacramento Kings.

 

Dame cold in Blazers loss

All-Star Damian Lillard's shooting was wayward as the Portland Trail Blazers were downed 125-113 by the Charlotte Hornets, hitting two from 14 from three-point range for a below-standard 14-point return.

LeBron James returned from injury with 26 points as the Los Angeles Lakers overcame a slow first half to defeat his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, 113-101 on Friday.

James had missed the Lakers' past two games with a sore ankle but marked his return by top scoring, adding eight assists and three rebounds.

The four-time MVP only shot 10 from 22 from the field and one from 10 from three-point range, draining a three-quarter time buzzer beater from almost halfway.

Carmelo Anthony added 24 points off the bench for the Lakers while Anthony Davis had 15 points, nine rebounds and three assists.

The Cavs, who have beaten contenders the Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers this season, led by as much as 11 points at one stage, including holding a one-point lead into the fourth quarter.

James played a lead role in steadying the ship for the Lakers, who scored 25-16 in the fourth quarter to win by 12 points and improve their record to 3-3.

 

Harden finds his scoring touch

James Harden re-discovered some form with a season-high 29 points, including 21 in the first half, in the Brooklyn Nets' 105-98 win over the Indiana Pacers. LaMarcus Aldridge added 21 points off the bench to reach 20,000 career NBA points, while Kevin Durant dominated with 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

Jimmy Butler starred with 32 points, 10 rebounds and five assists while Bam Adebayo added 26 points and 19 rebounds as the Miami Heat downed the in-form Charlotte Hornets 114-99.

Damian Lillard hit five from seven three-pointers, finishing with 25 points as the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 111-92. Paul George finished with 42 points for the Clippers, who are 1-3.

 

Doncic wayward as Mavs routed

Luka Doncic had an off-night, with 16 points, shooting five from 18 from the field as the Dallas Mavericks were brushed aside 106-75 by the Denver Nuggets.

Hornets guard LaMelo Ball's bright start to the season has stalled, managing only six points in their loss to the Heat, shooting none from five from beyond the arc.

The reigning NBA champions got back on track Saturday, as Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Milwaukee Bucks to a 121-111 defeat of the San Antonio Spurs. 

Two days after a 42-point blowout loss to the Miami Heat, the Bucks looked more like their usual selves in San Antonio, though the Spurs kept the game tight and pulled within four points with 4:24 to play. 

Middleton had 28 points to lead the Bucks, while Antetokounmpo added 21 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. 

Middleton, who is beginning his ninth season with the Bucks, passed Ray Allen to move into 10th on Milwaukee's all-time scoring list with 9,704 points for the team.

Doug McDermott scored 25 to lead Milwaukee, making seven of 11 from three-point range. 

 

Grizzlies hand Clippers another loss

Despite 41 points from Paul George, the Los Angeles Clippers lost their second straight game to open the season, falling 120-114 to the Memphis Grizzlies. While George poured in the points, a balanced Memphis attack led by Ja Morant's 28 points and eight assists secured another win for the visitors. 

In Portland, CJ McCollum scored 28 points and Damian Lillard had 19 as the Trail Blazers rolled past the Phoenix Suns 134-105. Devin Booker had 21 points, the only Phoenix player to score more than 14. 

Luka Doncic had a game-high 27 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds as the Dallas Mavericks rallied from a six-point half-time deficit to defeat the Raptors 103-95 in Toronto for their first victory under new head coach Jason Kidd. Tim Hardaway Jr. added 25 points and Kristaps Porzingis had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Mavericks, while OG Anunoby led Toronto with 23. 

Stephen Curry scored 45 points including two clutch three-pointers down the stretch as the Golden State Warriors won 115-113 over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.

Curry, who hit an equal career-high 25 points in the first quarter, was central to the Warriors win, which follows their opening night victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

After a wayward shooting display against Lakers that Curry described as "trash", the point guard nailed his first 10 field goal attempts for the game, finishing 16-from-25 including eight-from-13 from beyond the arc.

Curry also had 10 rebounds for the game, supported well by Andrew Wiggins with 17 points and six rebounds. Draymond Green battled throughout but had 10 points, six rebounds and seven assists.

The Warriors led by as much as 19 points but the Clippers clawed it back to a one-point game by half-time with Paul George excelling with 29 points along with 11 rebounds and six assists.

The game came down to the final minutes, with the Clippers leading by two points with less than two-and-a-half minutes to go after Marcus Morris Sr's three-pointer before Curry responded with two of his own.

 

Heat blow away Bucks

Reigning champions the Milwaukee Bucks were humbled 137-95 by the Miami Heat in Kyle Lowry's debut for his new team, although he only managed five points and six assists as he laboured with an ankle issue.

The Heat blew the Bucks apart early, opening up a 22-3 lead, with Tyler Herro top scoring with 27 points including a first-quarter buzzer beater from range after Max Strus' block.

Giannis Antetokounmpo top scored for the Bucks, who were without Jrue Holiday, with 15 points and 10 rebounds, shooting at 36.4 per cent from the field. Bucks forward Khris Middleton shot only four-from-14 from the field.

 

Young leads Hawks over Doncic's Mavs

Trae Young got the better of Luka Doncic as the Atlanta Hawks won 113-87 over the Dallas Mavericks.

Young finished the game with 19 points and 14 assists, which was the most by a Hawks player in a season opener since Mookie Blaylock in 1993. Clint Capela was excellent in the paint with 12 points and 13 rebounds, while Cam Reddish top scored off the bench with 20 points.

Doncic had his radar off, shooting six-from-17 for 18 points, along with 11 rebounds and seven assists. The Slovenian also gave up five turnovers.

The NBA and its leading stars will hope the coming regular season is exactly that: regular.

The past two have not been. In 2019-20, the season was paused for the coronavirus pandemic and resumed in Orlando, in a bubble and without crowds.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was at least able to put forward his claims for a second straight MVP honour prior to that point.

In 2020-21, a rapid turnaround from the playoffs appeared to catch some leading men out, before the brutal 72-game December-to-May calendar saw a number of top performers face spells on the sidelines.

As a result, Nikola Jokic was the clear MVP candidate, outstanding for the Denver Nuggets but crucially also one of just 11 players across the league to play in all 72 games. His 2,488 minutes trailed only New York Knicks pair Julius Randle (2,667) and RJ Barrett (2,511).

With a proper preseason to plan – and the Nuggets hurt by Jamal Murray's injury – it seems unlikely Jokic will defend his title.

But which players are most likely to follow his lead and move clear of the rest in the coming months? Stats Perform breaks down the chances of the MVP favourites.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Having claimed back-to-back MVP Awards, Antetokounmpo entered preseason last year as the favourite again and threatened for a time to contend, averaging 28.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. A six-game lay-off in April, immediately after scoring 47 points in Portland, put paid to those hopes.

However, it would have been tough for voters to justify again picking Antetokounmpo regardless. At that stage, he had won only three playoff series in his entire career. By contrast, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird – the three men previously honoured three years in a row – each celebrated at least one championship across the first two seasons of their respective runs.

It is very different now, though. Although Antetokounmpo would become only the ninth player to take the Maurice Podoloff Trophy on three occasions, there is less daunting historical precedent with the lean year in between. Crucially, too, the 'Greek Freak' is now himself a champion.

 

Antetokounmpo was the Milwaukee Bucks' Finals MVP as they won their first title in 50 years. Rather than regress in the playoffs – his points average had dipped from the regular season in four of his five prior postseason campaigns – the 26-year-old forward scaled new heights, taking more responsibility with a career-high 20.9 field goal attempts per game and being rewarded with 30.2 points.

Now embracing his strengths, taking only 3.3 shots from three-point range in the postseason and shooting 73.6 per cent at the rim, Antetokounmpo should have the confidence to kick on again.

Luka Doncic

It is Doncic, not Antetokounmpo, who has been installed as the early favourite this year. The Slovenian is only entering his fourth season, but it feels about time he truly established himself as a future great.

Doncic was one of those who acknowledged he was "not in my best shape" as the 2020-21 season promptly got under way, and the Dallas Mavericks were an underwhelming 8-12 at the end of January, although the point forward still averaged 27.4 points over that slow early period. He then weighed in with 30.3 points across 12 games in February.

Only four players bettered Doncic's 1,830 points come the end of the year, yet he could still be a little more consistent in pursuit of a regular-season award. The 22-year-old has set an astonishing standard on the biggest stage. While waiting on a first series win, his 33.5 playoff points are the most by any player to feature in at least 13 career games. Doncic's 143 points at the Tokyo Olympics led the tournament.

If Dallas can be competitive from the outset, Doncic's game is certainly a good fit for individual recognition, his 2020-21 usage rate of 36.0 per cent the highest among players with 500 or more possessions. Similarly dominant for Slovenia, his 57 assists and 196 minutes also topped the charts at the Olympics.

New coach Jason Kidd will ask "young Picasso" Doncic to share the ball around a little more this year, though, saying: "As a coach, I don't know if anybody told Picasso that he had to use all the paints. But I just want to remind Luka that he can rely on his team-mates, and his team-mates are going to be there to help him."

He added: "We know that it's easy to get the ball to Luka, but the one thing we do want to get accomplished is other guys as playmakers so come the fourth quarter Luka is fresh and is ready to deliver." Some more big moments – Luka's 93 clutch points ranked 21st last year – would certainly help Doncic's cause.

Stephen Curry

The Los Angeles Lakers' new 'big three' – we will come to the Brooklyn Nets shortly – is likely to help title hopes but hinder MVP bids. Russell Westbrook's relentless regular-season efforts, averaging 34.4 per cent usage over the past seven seasons, might take some of the shine away from LeBron James. Curry does not have that problem.

As last year, when he had the next-most first-place votes after Jokic (albeit just five to 91), the Golden State Warriors are set to be hugely reliant on Curry – at least until fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson is back from injury.

In his first full season since Kevin Durant left and Thompson went down, Curry set his stall out early with 62 points against the Portland Trail Blazers but saved his best for the end of the year, averaging 36.9 points after a tailbone injury in March to take a second scoring title. The two-time MVP could not quite do enough to carry the Warriors through the play-in round.

A young supporting cast is now another year older, however, meaning Golden State should be competitive enough to keep Curry in the limelight without having enough talent to distract from his displays.

Only Thompson's return is likely to alter the pattern of play after Curry set career highs in points (32.0), rebounds (5.5), field goal attempts (21.7), three-point attempts (12.7), foul line visits (6.3) and usage rate (34.7). He scored a league-high 24.6 per cent of the Warriors' points.

 

Kevin Durant

Durant, like James, was set to merely be the biggest star on a team of stars until the complications around Kyrie Irving's status arose. As it stands, Irving will not feature for the Nets due to his refusal to get a coronavirus vaccine that would allow him to play home games.

Of course, Brooklyn also have James Harden, who briefly flirted with the MVP picture last year prior to a hamstring injury, but Durant will be the team's go-to as long as he stays on the court.

Although Durant made only 32 starts in 35 games in 2020-21, he led the Nets in points per game (26.9) and usage rate (31.1). Irving ranked second in both categories (also 26.9 points per game, 30.5 per cent usage).

The former Warrior is now another year on from his awful Achilles injury and gave an indication in the playoffs of the player he can still be. Playing in all 12 games, unlike Harden and Irving, Durant scored an outstanding 34.3 points – a league best among those to play 10 or more games. Only a borderline call on a Durant shot in Game 7 against the Bucks ended Brooklyn's campaign.

With or without Irving, the Nets are expected to contend for the title this time. Durant was Finals MVP in his two championship triumphs in 2017 and 2018 but has only a single regular season award, back in 2013-14. If he is back to his best, as would appear to be the case, the 33-year-old could dominate the coming season from start to finish.

Joel Embiid

Should, as this list suggests, voters look for players who are capable of putting their teams on their backs, Embiid's case has only got stronger.

The big man was already the Philadelphia 76ers' key performer, evidenced by their 39-12 record with him in the team last year compared to 10-11 when he was missing. Indeed, had Embiid not been absent for such a number of games, he might well have pipped Jokic to the top individual award.

Jokic clearly had the edge as a creator, his 8.3 assists per game allowing him to tally 16 triple-doubles, Embiid actually averaged more points (28.5 to 26.4) and his prowess on defense (including 1.4 blocks per game) contributed to far superior numbers in terms of plus/minus (7.9 to 5.3) and defensive rating (103.1 to 109.2).

 

Ben Simmons, the Sixers' second man, was already underwhelming last year, and Embiid's responsibilities on both ends of the floor are set to increase due to the uncertainty surrounding his team-mate.

Even if Simmons sticks around, as is now a possibility, this is clearly Embiid's team. He felt it had not been previously, responding to reports Simmons was unhappy with the dynamic by saying: "I feel like our teams have always been built around his needs." Those claims were "disappointing" and "borderline kind of disrespectful", Embiid added.

He will certainly not be lacking motivation now to put his injury woes behind him, enjoy another outstanding season and claim the MVP award that evaded him last year.

Luka Doncic accepts new coach Jason Kidd has a point when he asks his "young Picasso" to have more faith in his Dallas Mavericks team-mates.

Mavs superstar Doncic is heading into his fourth season in the NBA but is yet to win a playoff series.

It is not for a lack of effort or ability, however, with the Slovenian twice going toe-to-toe with the Los Angeles Clippers and coming up just short.

Indeed, through 13 postseason games, Doncic has averaged 33.5 points – a league record at that stage of a career.

With or without Doncic, it is now 10 years since Dallas advanced through a series, last doing so when they were champions in 2011, and title-winning coach Rick Carlisle has been replaced by Kidd – a member of that successful Finals team.

Kidd is looking forward to working with the 22-year-old but, as a former point guard, has already identified a key area of potential improvement.

While Kidd sits second on the all-time list for regular season assists (12,091) and fourth for the playoffs (1,263), Doncic has so far proven a little more reluctant to put the ball in the hands of his colleagues.

The former Real Madrid sensation's 8.6 assists per game ranked fifth in the league, but only Steph Curry in the top 25 attempted more field goals (20.5 per game for Doncic, 21.7 for Curry).

Doncic's usage rate of 36.2 per cent was the highest among players with 500 or more possessions, yet Kidd wants his main man to make better choices.

"I look at Luka as a young Picasso, someone who's very talented, loves to win and understands how to play the game at a very high level," he said.

"As a coach, I don't know if anybody told Picasso that he had to use all the paints. But I just want to remind Luka that he can rely on his team-mates, and his team-mates are going to be there to help him.

"I'm very excited to have this opportunity to work with a young Picasso whose paintings have been incredible up to this point and are only going to get better with time and age."

Doncic had no issue with this critique, replying: "Of course. I just think there's a lot of things I can improve on off the court, on the court.

"Obviously, this is one of them. And I think he is right. But I've still got to improve on a lot of things."

Doncic's displays at the Tokyo Olympics suggested he is growing in this regard, clearly the best player on the Slovenia team but contributing a tournament high in assists (57) as well as points (143).

"I think leadership you develop through years," he said. "You see every year it's going to be a little bit better.

"Obviously, I learned from the playoffs, from the Olympics, how to be a leader. One thing I learned is I need to be more vocal with the team."

Plenty is expected from Doncic, who finished sixth in the MVP race last year without a single first-place vote but is the early favourite for 2021-22.

However, he said: "I don't care about that. It's only the beginning of the season. That's at the end. That's far away.

"The team goals and my goal is to win the championship. That's it."

Luka Doncic has become the first player to be handed a supermax rookie extension worth $207million, tying him to the Dallas Mavericks for a further five years.

Doncic qualifies for the landmark deal having already twice been named to the All-NBA First Team.

Bill Duffy, Doncic's agent, told ESPN of the agreement on Monday, while the player released a statement through the same publication.

"Today is a dream come true," he said. "The game of basketball has given me so much and has taken me to so many amazing places.

"I am humbled and excited to remain in Dallas as part of the Mavericks and appreciate the support of my fans."

Doncic, who is set to hold a news conference in Slovenia on Tuesday, added he would be expanding The Luka Doncic Foundation.

The 22-year-old is in Slovenia having led his country to the semi-finals of the men's basketball tournament at the Tokyo Olympics.

The European champions were Games debutants but came within a clutch Nicolas Batum block of reaching the gold medal game.

Doncic led the competition in a number of categories across the board, including points (143), assists (57) and minutes played (196).

His triple-double against France in the last four was the third in Games history, but the point forward suffered the first defeat of his international career and then lost again to Australia in the bronze medal game.

Focus will now return to the NBA, where Doncic will hope his individual excellence can inspire improved results for the Mavs.

Dallas have not won a playoff series since they were champions 10 years ago, despite Doncic's outstanding displays taking the Los Angeles Clippers to six and then seven games in the past two seasons.

Doncic has scored 33.5 points per game across those two postseason series – no player in NBA history has played at least 13 playoff games and averaged more.

Luka Doncic explained an uncharacteristic poor shooting performance was the reason for his assist-heavy approach in Slovenia's Olympic semi-final defeat to France, despite appearing to sustain a wrist injury in the fourth quarter.

Slovenia – featuring at their first Games – agonisingly went down 90-89 to France following Nicolas Batum's block in the final three seconds of the game.

The European champions ran Les Bleus close even as Doncic attempted only two shots in the fourth quarter.

The Dallas Mavericks superstar looked to have taken a knock when he collided with a court-side screen early in the fourth but did not indicate any issue as he discussed his late preference for passes.

"My shots weren't falling today, so I was trying to find open team-mates," Doncic said.

Asked specifically about the final play when Batum blocked Klemen Prepelic's lay-up from a Doncic pass, he added: "I think Batum was helping so I had to pass.

"I think [Prepelic] was open and it was a great drive, but Batum had an amazing block. I think it was a good choice.

"Not always you can make a smart choice but I trust them, they trust me and I thought that was a good choice."

Doncic shot five-for-18 from the field and two-for-nine from three-point range but still tallied 16 points, 10 rebounds and 18 assists.

He became only the third player in Olympic history to record a triple-double, following in the footsteps of Alexander Belov and LeBron James.

But having been beaten for the first time in Slovenia colours, falling to 17-1 after success at EuroBasket 2017 and the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Kaunas, Doncic was not interested in individual achievements.

"We lost the game so I don't care about my performance," he said.

Doncic leads the Games in points (121) and assists (50) but has also drawn the most fouls (39) and played the most minutes (160) in a gruelling campaign.

Opponent Evan Fournier felt the point forward, who led the NBA in usage rate last season (36 per cent), tired under close scrutiny from the French defenders.

"It was the objective to target him all through the match, several of us in relay," New York Knicks signing Fournier said.

"Tim [Luwawu-Cabarrot] did an excellent job, Nico did an excellent job, and I think, as strong as he is, in a 40-minute match you still get tired physically.

"He wasn't taking three-point shots and I think if he'd been fresher he would have done."

Doncic said of the attention: "I'm used to every defense now."

Batum embraced the 22-year-old at the end of the game, with the duo facing off in yet another crunch contest after a seven-game playoff series between the Mavs and the Los Angeles Clippers.

Doncic was on the losing side on that occasion, too, but averaged 35.7 points per game, and he said of the post-game exchange with Batum: "It was a good message. He's a class act. He told me he hates playing against me, in a good way."

An exhausted Luka Doncic fell agonisingly short of carrying Slovenia into the gold medal game at the Tokyo Olympics as they went down 90-89 in their semi-final against France.

Dallas Mavericks superstar Doncic has been the dominant player at the Games and was at the centre of the action again on Thursday.

Despite uncharacteristically slack two-for-nine shooting from deep – hindered by an apparent injury – Doncic put up 16 points, 10 rebounds and 18 assists for a heroic triple-double.

It was the third in Olympic history and first since LeBron James' against Australia at London 2012.

The 22-year-old played a game-high 36 minutes and took numerous hits, but it was Nicolas Batum's clutch block on Klemen Prepelic that decided the contest in France's favour.

Les Bleus will now face the United States, who they have beaten in consecutive tournament games, while Doncic must turn his focus to the bronze medal match against Australia after falling to 17-1 in international play.

Slovenia – making their Olympics debut this year – led 44-42 at halftime before a tough third quarter in which they struggled to get stops and were outscored 29-21.

Doncic then sustained a knock to his wrist in a collision with a court-side screen early in the fourth and seemed reluctant to shoot thereafter.

With their primary scorer pulling the strings but relying on his team-mates to make shots, Slovenia still took the game down to the closing seconds.

After Doncic's 10th rebound ensured his first triple of the Olympics, Prepelic went through for a lay-up inside the final three seconds, only for Batum's fourth block and Gobert's 16th board to deny Slovenia.

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