After the All-Star break last season, Luka Doncic was dealing with a strained thigh issue that caused him to miss five games, and he saw his scoring and shooting efficiency drop a little — he had a 61.4 true shooting percentage before the All-Star break, 59.3 after. He said at the time the issue lingered slightly through the postseason.
Before Doncic scored 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds leading Slovenia past Italy to finish seventh at the World Cup, he said his legs felt “heavy” and that same leg issue still bothers him. Via Grant Afseth of Sports Illustrated:
“I do not know what to say,” Doncic said. “It’s not okay. At the same time, I have to prepare for one more game, and then for a whole season in the NBA.”
Doncic said he was healthy enough to play and would not have been on the court for Slovenia if he wasn’t, trying to dispel the rumors he was pressured to play (Slovenia is not a threat without him). He said again he loves to represent his country and planned to do so at every opportunity in the future, including Olympic qualifying tournaments next summer.
An MRI at the time he missed games last March came back clean, but clearly whatever the issue is still lingers. Doncic reportedly worked hard on his conditioning this offseason and reporters at the World Cup said he looked in as good of shape as they had ever seen him.
Expect the Mavericks to ease Doncic into training camp and try to let the thigh heal, it’s not something the team wants lingering through the 82-game marathon of a season. The Mavericks reworked their roster to put more defense around Doncic and Kyrie Irving, believing those dynamic shot creators could provide the offense the team needs. Dallas enters next season with growing expectations of what the Doncic/Irving pairing can bring, as well as the pressure any team with a superstar player feels to win and take advantage of a player’s prime before they get restless.
There will be a lot of eyes on Dallas this season, and now watching the health of Doncic’s legs will be part of that.