Things in the Mavs locker room were tumultuous to say the least during former head coach Rick Carlisle’s last few seasons with the team. This according to a new report from ESPN’s Tim McMahon, which focuses on how the relationship between Carlisle and Mavs star Luka Doncic soured.
One of the root causes it seems was how Carlisle treated players, including former Mavs guard and first round pick Dennis Smith Jr. Early in his time in Dallas, Doncic and Smith formed a close bond and spent a lot of time together. The story makes it clear that Carlisle never really wanted to draft Smith and midway through his rookie season Carlisle had pretty much given up on Smith.
In Doncic’s first season in Dallas, Carlisle would often pit him and Smith against each other, McMahon reported, including one team meeting in which Carlisle openly “accused Smith of being jealous of Doncic.” Doncic didn’t appreciate being put against his friend and it started to sour the relationship.
Smith has already spoken out on Twitter corroborating the story about his time in Dallas.
Another point of friction came in last season’s playoff opener against the Clippers. Midway through the third quarter, Doncic picked up his third foul and motioned to Carlisle that he wanted to stay in, but Carlisle ignored him and sent in Jalen Brunson.
Doncic responded by acting like he was squeezing something on the way to the bench and shaking his head the entire way. He then walked past his seat on the bench and went to the short wall of the arena’s lower bowl where he, the story reports, “turned his back to the floor and remained there for most of the Clippers’ ensuing possession.”
Doncic then made his way back to the bench and shouted in Carlisle’s direction.
Doncic Relationship With Finney-Smith
Another interesting note in the story is the fact that forward Dorian Finney-Smith and Doncic also share a close relationship. With all the trade talk around the Mavs it’s worth wondering if this is something that will be considered if they were to consider a trade involving Finney-Smith.
To our knowledge Luka has not used his superstar power to influence any personnel decisions yet, but would the Mavs consult him before making a deal involving Finney-Smith?
Impact on Jason Kidd
Considering the Mavs’ relationship with Doncic could already be on shaky ground due to the past friction with Carlisle, they would be wise to consult Doncic on personnel decisions going forward. As noted in the article new head coach Jason Kidd and his staff have taken steps to try and amend the relationship with players. Recently though Kidd has voiced his frustration with the team on the defensive end and he’s called out Doncic in the media this season.
So far there have no reports of Doncic being unhappy with the new staff and he hasn’t complained about Kidd calling him out publicly. It’s fair to wonder though how long that will last if the Mavs continue to struggle this season. In the past Kidd has also dealt with his own allegations of treating his players harshly, most notably when former NBA center Larry Sanders claimed Kidd “brain-f***ed me” while he was in Milwaukee.
Of course it’s possible that Kidd has learned from those mistakes, but if the team continues to struggle, Kidd will need to manage his emotions. Also, how much rope do Kidd and his staff have and how much does the previous regimes problems affect them?
As the Mavs continue to progress into the new coaching regime with Jason Kidd it’ll be important for them to monitor the relationship with Doncic. Another poor relationship with a coach could put the Mavs’ relationship with Doncic in a bad place. The Mavs recently signed Doncic to a five-year, $207 million rookie supermax extension that makes him the franchise cornerstone through at least 2026, with the last year being a player option.
The Mavs also need to make moves that will improve the roster and help build for a championship while they have Doncic under contract. The tricky part of that could come with how much say they give Doncic on those decisions. Particularly when those deals involve players on the team he might be close with, but could help facilitate a trade for a player that could improve the roster.