Dirk Nowitzki, measuring his words so as to not put undue pressure on Luka Doncic, says the Dallas Mavericks' rookie guard is in many ways a better player than Nowitzki was when he entered the NBA 20 years ago.
Doncic, a EuroLeague MVP from Slovenia, is only eight months younger than Nowitzki was as a rookie from Germany. But according to Nowitzki, the resemblance, in most other respects, stops there.
"I could shoot a little bit [at 19], but I never had the court vision, the savviness and the stuff that he brings to the game," Nowitzki said, appearing Tuesday on Dallas radio's 105.3 The Fan. "Just the way he already reads pick-and-rolls. You go under, he shoots. If the man goes over, he kind of keeps him behind him like the best, like Chris Paul and these guys do. He does all of that. He's going to be fun -- fun to watch."
Doncic signed with Real Madrid at age 13 and made his debut as a 16-year-old. Real Madrid won the 2017-18 EuroLeague title and he was the Final Four MVP.
Dallas acquired Doncic in a draft-day trade; Atlanta selected the versatile guard with the No. 3 pick.
"Obviously, I don't want to put too much pressure on him," Nowitzki said in the radio interview. "Coming over from a different country, I went through the same thing about 20 years ago. It's tough to adjust to a lot of things: living in a different country, another culture, to a different game, different coaching, different play style. For me, that took a full year. My first year was really, really tough.
"We're going to do everything we can to help this kid develop and have fun and learn so we can see the best Luka here hopefully in a couple more years. But he's an incredible talent."
Nowitzki, a former NBA MVP who turned 40 in June, is set to become the first player in league history to play 21 consecutive seasons for the same franchise. The 7-footer is one of six players overall, and the only international player, with more than 30,000 career points.
At $5.5 million, Doncic's rookie salary will exceed the one-year, $5 million deal Nowitzki re-signed for this summer.
"He's been here now for a week, scrimmaged every day, works hard and I really like what I'm seeing," Nowitzki said. "He is incredible with the ball for a big guy; I mean, he's a legit 6-8, 6-9.
"... He's unbelievable in the pick-and-roll play. He did, like, over-the-head, between-the-leg passes to cutters. The savviness that he brings, the court vision is already unbelievable. I couldn't believe what I saw for a 19-, 20-year-old. Unbelievable. He's a good shooter when he has time. I think he's going to be great for us for a long, long time."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.