Luka Doncic interview: "I'm not afraid of pressure, I'm used to it"
Doncic spoke exclusively to As about his time at Real Madrid, the NBA draft night when he was selected, burner accounts and Charles Barkley talking trash.
Luka Doncic will make the jump to the NBA next season after winning everything possible with both Real Madrid and Slovenia. He has not yet played a minute in the league but, at 19, has already been named as the face of NBA 2K19 on it's 20th anniversary. The new Dallas Maverick spoke to As about leaving Madrid and his future.
You haven't debuted in the NBA but you're an ambassador for NBA 2K...
It's something incredible. When they called me, I was very happy. For me, it's something very special.
And when will we see you on the front cover of the videogame?
I don't know when. It's not easy to say. But I hope to be on the game one year, obviously.
Have you had the chance to process all the good things that happened to you last season?
It has been a dream year. To win almost all the titles this year is special. Now, this summer, I have a few days to rest and to think about what I've been through. Although I am not one to think about the past or to talk to myself. I hope I can repeat a year like that some time.
And your former teammates...
(Laughs) I have gotten lost of advice, from the most veteran players. Although not just in the last few days but during the last few years. Without them, I couldn't be who I am.
What did Pablo Laso mean in the career of Luka Doncic?
A lot. If I say that my teammates are a reason why I am the player I am, Pablo is the same. Not all coaches have the character to put a 15 or 16 year old on the court. I could say that I see him as my sporting father. This summer, I kept speaking with him. We will always be in contact if either of us need anything.
So, if you need advice from Laso, the door will be open....
Yes, of course!
In the last year, you had massive expectation and a lot of pressure about your future. How do you manage this situation so that it doesn't affect your performance on the court?
It's difficult. But I lived with pressure since I was 15. I am used to it. I know that it will always be there, but I'm not afraid of pressure.
And then your name was called third in the draft. How do you remember that night?
Like a dream. It was a unique night. Hearing my name and getting up on stage in front of the whole world it something I will never forget.
When did you hear you would be picked number three and would be going to the Mavericks?
I knew a few minutes before I was announced. I can't remember what I thought at the time. A lot of things happened on my head in that moment. I didn't know where I was. (Laughs) It was a great night.
Were you more nervous than in the final of Eurobasket or EuroLeague?
They are different. You know that they're going to pick you but not in what position. It's not the same type of situation.
Most rookies, especially international players, find it hard to adapt to the changes that come in the NBA. That's something you've experienced when you left Slovenia at 13 to play with Real Madrid.
Even though it is to go and play basketaball, you always have to take into account the change when you move. It requires a few months to adapt.
Once you land in Dallas, what will the new coach Rick Carslisle and the franchise ask of you?
We all want the very best for the team, but what they say to me stays between us, I can't say. Yes, I can say that I speak a lot with my trainer.
And personally, what goals do you set for the first season?
The first is to think about the team, I would like us to play in the playoffs. Individually, I would like to play well and achieve the things that the trainers ask of me. But I insist, I will be there for what the team asks of me. That is the most important.
Trying to forget the collective. Where do you see yourself?
I feel more free with the ball in my hands and creating scoring situations for my teammates. I like to play in the pick and roll. In the NBA, it is easier to do that with the space there. I am comfortable with that.
What does it mean for another European to share the dressing room with Dirk Nowitzki in his 21st season?
It's fantastic to have a player like Dirk as a teammate. I spoke with him, but he still hasn't made any jokes...we will see in September (laughs). It's incredible to have him as a mentor!
You arrive on the 25th anniversary of Dražen Petrović's passing.
It's always nice to be compared to a player like Dražen. I can't deny that it's special to me, although I always say the same. Every player is who he is and I am Luka.
Are you conscious now that every movement or comment is turned into news?
I don't read newspapers or look at social media. I just upload my photos and I see the ones the people I follow put up. I try to forget about it and continue with my life.
Almost all players say this but later, in the news, it is revealed that Kevin Durant has burner accounts to defend himself against the critics.
I have never done that. There are people who say nice things and others who say bad things. I try to pass over on those things.
And what player is the one player who is most special for you to play against?
LeBron James. I have always been very interested in him.
Starting to understand trashtalking in the United States. Before the draft, Charles Barkley commented that the player he faced weren't very good...
He said that because he doesn't know European basketball. He can say what he wants to say. As I said, I don't pay attention to those things.
Five years from now, what would Luka Doncic have achieved in the NBA?
To be an NBA Champion. It would be another dream achieved.