Doncic set for MSG debut as Mavs face Knicks

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

There might have been fans who purchased tickets to Wednesday night's game at Madison Square Garden between the New York Knicks and the Dallas Mavericks in hopes of seeing Mavericks superstar Dirk Nowitzki one last time.

Turns out they're getting quite a bonus: The chance to see Luka Doncic for the first time.

Doncic, the Mavericks' superlative rookie, will play in the Big Apple for the first time Wednesday night, when Dallas visits the Knicks.

The Mavericks lost their most recent game Sunday, albeit through no fault of Doncic, who became the first teenager in NBA history to score 30 points in a triple-double as Dallas fell to the visiting Toronto Raptors, 123-120.

The Knicks continued free-falling Monday, when they dropped a 10th straight game by losing at the Charlotte Hornets, 101-92.

The loss by the Mavericks did little to diminish the accomplishment of the 19-year-old Doncic, who racked up 35 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists against the Raptors.

Doncic, who won't turn 20 until Feb. 28, broke the record previously held by LeBron James, who was 20 years, 100 days old when he scored 40 points and collected 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Milwaukee Bucks on April 9, 2005.

In addition, Doncic became just the fourth rookie in the past 35 years to score 35 points in a triple-double. He joined select company: Michael Jordan, Jason Kidd and Stephen Curry.

"For me, what matters is the victory," Doncic said afterward. "(The triple-double) was special for sure, but it would be even more if we got the win."

The loss won't be remembered if Doncic continues to emerge as Nowitzki's replacement as a franchise player. The similarities are already uncanny: Doncic was actually drafted in the lottery by an Eastern Conference team (the Atlanta Hawks) before being immediately dealt to the Mavericks. Back in 1998, Nowitzki was picked in the lottery by the Milwaukee Bucks before being traded to Dallas.

Now, the only question about Nowitzki is when he enters the Hall of Fame. A player must be retired for four seasons before becoming eligible for the Hall.

Nowitzki hasn't tipped his hand one way or the other, though retirement seems as if it's an increasingly likely choice. The 40-year-old missed the first two months while recovering from left ankle surgery and has played just 18 games overall. He had seven points in 10 minutes against the Raptors.

The Knicks might have their own franchise player in Kristaps Porzingis, but with the 23-year-old sidelined due to a torn ACL suffered last February, New York is, intentionally or not, doing its best to get in position to draft a second potential cornerstone next to Porzingis.

The loss to the Hornets was the 10th in a row -- and 23rd in 25 games -- for the Knicks, who are battling with the Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns for the worst record in the league and the best chance to grab Duke star Zion Williamson with the No. 1 pick in June's draft. Or perhaps deal the pick to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for disgruntled Anthony Davis, who demanded a trade Monday.

At the moment, though, first-year Knicks coach David Fizdale is simply focusing on trying to win a game.

"I haven't seen any of that," Fizdale said Monday. "No, I'm serious. I have not seen that. Anthony Davis asked for a trade? I locked myself in my hotel and just watched film today. I turned my phone off. I got yelled at by my wife today. I have no idea. What happened?"

--Field Level Media