There is reason heading into this year’s EuroBasket tournament, which starts in two weeks and will feature numerous NBA stars in four cities across the continent, for Slovenia/Mavericks star Luka Doncic to feel confident about his side’s chances at coming away with the gold medal. His team is the defending champ, after all, and according to DraftKings, only the runner-up from the 2017 tournament, Serbia, has better odds to win the gold.
With Doncic on board, plus veteran guard Goran Dragic and his brother, mainstay Zoran Dragic, Slovenia is deep and experienced. Former Virginia star Mike Tobey is also now a Slovenian national and a member of the team.
But for Mavericks fans, as nice as it might be to see Doncic bring home international gold, the big benefit of the tournament figures to be the benefit of top conditioning that Doncic will get from the event. After dealing with talk about being out of shape to start last season—he admitted he was not in peak form—Doncic has already appeared to have NBA-ready fitness as the team undergoes its warmup schedule ahead of the tournament.
Slow Starts Have Marked Doncic’s Career
Indeed, early-season conditioning has never been a strong suit for Doncic. In 18 career games he has played in October with the Mavericks, Doncic has averaged 21.8 points, his lowest output of any month in the NBA calendar year. His 29.5% usage rate in October is also his lowest by month in his NBA career, mostly because his 5.9 assists per game are his lowest of any month.
The Mavericks are 9-9 in the 18 October games since Doncic arrived in Dallas. The one year the NBA started late, in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic, the Mavs got off to a 2-4 start with Doncic struggling badly.
Last year, ESPN reported that Doncic showed up to training camp at 260 pounds, well over his listed weight of 230 pounds. He played with Slovenia in the Olympics, where his team finished fourth, wrapping up action on August 7.
He said in December, “I had a long summer. I had the Olympics, took three weeks off, and I relaxed a little bit. Maybe too much. I’ve just got to get back on track.”
But with the way the EuroBasket schedule is set up, Doncic is likely to be playing past mid-September—the third-place game and final are on the 18th, and it would be stunning if Slovenia were not at least among the Top 4 in the tournament.
That means Doncic will only have nine days before Dallas’ first official training camp practice.
All Eyes on September 18
Doncic spoke to the media this week, and said he is eyeing the gold:
We are going to Germany to win gold. In every competition where we compete, the goal must always be the first place. We will do everything for it, but we will see if we make it. In 2017, no one took us seriously when we announced our attack on the gold medal, today is different. It’s nice when you see that everyone will make an extra effort against us to win.
He did say that, even now, he needs conditioning work. But he said that by September 18, he will be ready.
“I’m not in top shape yet, but it will be until the European Championship,” he said.