Steve Kerr: Mavs' Luka Doncic going to be one of NBA's 'cornerstones'

ByNick Friedell ESPN logo
Wednesday, January 15, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO -- Golden State Warriorscoach Steve Kerr believes Dallas Mavericks star guard Luka Doncic will be a "cornerstone" of the NBA for years to come, while comparing parts of Doncic's game to Larry Bird and James Harden.

"He's really good for the NBA," Kerr said prior to Tuesday's game against the Mavericks. "He's important for the league -- and [that] doesn't really have anything to do with him coming from Europe. It's more just what a wonderful basketball player he is. He's different. He's got this incredible knack for seeing the floor and being a step ahead. He reminds me a little bit of Larry Bird in that regard. He's kind of one step ahead in the chess match. But he's got this James Harden skill set with crossovers and stepbacks.

"He's a brilliant player, so young; he's going to be one of the cornerstones of this league for a long time. He's very important to the NBA."

Kerr and several of his All-Star players have spoken highly of the 20-year-old since facing him for the first time last season, but that respect has grown even deeper this year as Doncic has registered a triple-double in both games the teams have played against each other this season.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said that while he doesn't like comparing players, he understands why so many people are so high on the young point guard.

"That's all legitimate," Carlisle said after being told of Kerr's comments. "But I stay away from the comparison game because I think it's important that this kid is his own player. And he truly is. So look, each month he continues to develop and learn more and hones certain skills even more, so it's pretty exciting. A very exciting player to watch. I understand the hype."

Doncic, who entered Tuesday's contest averaging 29.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 9 assists a game, has been the talk of the NBA all season as he continues to take over games on a regular basis. Carlisle offered up a history lesson on how Doncic landed with the Mavericks prior to the game.

"I had heard the name," Carlisle said. "I had not seen him play. This was about a year before the 2018 draft. We were in a rebuild and there were obvious conversations about who was good in the draft, in the coming year. We weren't projected to be good, so I just asked [Mavericks resident of basketball operations and general manager Donnie Nelson] a general question: 'Who's the best player coming out?' And he said, 'Doncic,' and he said, 'It's not close.' I said, 'Wow.' And we got into a little deeper conversation about it, he just said, 'Look, he's got the elements of some of the great international players of all time.' Plus he's an original. He's very much an original player.

"And then we got to the draft that year and pretty much at the last second we had a chance to make the deal to move up, assuming he was at 3, and assuming Atlanta's guy was at 5. So that worked out and it's been a good deal for both teams."

As someone who has both played with and against some of the greatest players of all time, Kerr appreciates the way Doncic is handling his rise in the league and all the extra attention and scrutiny that comes with it.

"He seems to be handling his business pretty well, so I don't worry about him," Kerr said. "I think anybody in that situation has a lot coming at him in terms of the notoriety and the attention, the strategy, people game planning for him, that kind of stuff. None of it seems to faze him.

"He's playing at a really high level. He's handling himself well. I love the manner in which he plays, with a smile on his face -- he's obviously having fun out there. And is a brilliant basketball player; he makes his teammates better -- great passer, great shooter -- and he's great for the game."

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