COLOGNE, Germany — With minutes remaining in the first quarter of the EuroBasket opener victory in Slovenia on Thursday, center Mike Tobey grabbed an offensive rebound and bullied Lithuanian NBA starter Jonas Valanciunas for a second chance lay-up.
Already halfway down the field, expecting to come back on defense, Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic raised his arms and bowed in celebration.
Big emphasis on flex.
Throughout this offseason, discussions of Doncic heading into his fifth NBA season have often included questions about his weight and conditioning and whether the Mavericks’ preseason training camp at the end of this month will be the third straight that he has started out of form.
Through a string of national team games this summer and a grueling physical start to a physically grueling EuroBasket tournament, Doncic has looked on pace – even when not faltering – and left plenty with the Mavericks hoping for his Extra time with Slovenia and attention to fitness from the second half of last season will mean the jump.
Assessing Doncic’s conditioning this summer first-hand has been difficult, although it’s clear, even remotely, that Doncic’s ability to disagree with officials is already in top form mid-season. .
He hasn’t taken part in interviews for months – apart from brief post-match TV appearances with Slovenia’s inside partners – and he walked through the EuroBasket mixed zone on Thursday without making contact visual nor stop for a requested conversation.
Slovenia initially nominated him as a representative to join head coach Aleksander Sekulic at the official post-match press conference, but then brought out Goran Dragic instead.
So asking Doncic about his workouts – or even making an anecdotal assessment up close – has been nigh on impossible.
But a few signs in Doncic’s public orbit have been promising for the Mavericks.
He posted several video clips on Instagram this summer of training with Slovenian coach Anze Macek, and he’s played in four games — plus three not-so-friendly friendlies — since the end of the Western Conference Finals.
Doncic’s body type isn’t naturally built for ripped muscles or explosive athleticism.
But after the first window of World Cup qualifying matches in early July, a Mavericks official jokingly wondered if Doncic slipped body oil because his arms looked more defined and his physique looked leaner. .
Maybe layers of sweat helped him shine, too.
EuroBasket will certainly ask for more.
After Thursday’s win over Lithuania, Slovenia will play four games in five days. In the two consecutive series – Saturday against Hungary, Sunday against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tuesday against Germany and Wednesday against France – the team will have less than 21 hours between predictions.
Slovenia will also play up to four games in eight days in the Round of 16 if the quest for the gold medal goes as planned.
Such a grind less than two weeks before the start of the Mavericks’ training camp on September 27 has raised concerns about whether Doncic will respond in the same way he handled last year’s Olympic replay.
Doncic took time off to rest, gained more than 15 pounds during the six-week break between the Games and training camp, and battled injuries and weight issues until the end of the season. ‘calendar year.
Additionally, the scare of Doncic’s twisted ankle in last weekend’s World Cup qualifier against Germany served as a reminder of the total risk of playing EuroBasket – or any setting – may feature during the NBA offseason.
But expect some aspects to be different this year.
Doncic will have a maximum of 17 days between the end of EuroBasket and Mavericks training camp – but likely only eight days if Slovenia make it to the September 18 medal rounds.
He and his side had known for almost five years that the EuroBasket schedule would present a quick turnaround and they could better anticipate the pace of its preparation, unlike the Olympics last summer when Slovenia were not even scheduled to participate or in 2020 when the pandemic disrupted and precipitated the NBA’s offseason timeline.
Doncic also seems keen to prove his stamina.
In his most athletic highlight on Thursday, Doncic put a basic spinning move on former NBAer Ignas Brazdeikis, drove in for a dunk, hung from the rim with one arm for an extra moment and stared Brazdeikis under him.
All but one of Doncic’s seven dunks of the Mavericks’ final season came after his 20-day hiatus in December.
He also sprinted in multi-point defense and recorded three interceptions in the first half alone.
Following the win and watching Dirk Nowitzki’s national team jersey retirement ceremony, Doncic posted a slideshow on Instagram that included a snapshot of *that* dunk and *that* flex.
The social media hype poured in:
“Incoming MVP Season”
The Mavericks hope so.
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