LUCA DONCIC has lamented only being able to play with NBA icon Dirk Nowitzki for one season.
The Slovenian took the league by storm in the last campaign after his switch from Real Madrid and is the bookie’ favourites to be named the Rookie of the Year.
Still only 20, Doncic scored 21 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished six assists per game, while routinely providing highlight moments and playing like someone ten years older.
German great Nowitzki, has bowed out of the league after a remarkable 21-season stint with the Dallas Mavericks, in which he won one NBA title, was named the MVP, reached 14 All-Star teams and 12 All-NBA teams.
The 41-year-old, who will reach the Hall of Fame as soon as he is eligible, is the NBA’s sixth all-time leading scorer and undoubtedly the best European player ever.
Last season, Nowitzki took more of a mentor role for the young Mavericks – and Doncic says his leadership and knowledge has been invaluable to his development.
He said: “He knows everything about basketball.
“He changed the game. He changed the NBA.
“He’s just a born leader and he loves the game… There’s a lot of things I learned from him.
“The whole year. Just being with him, it was special.
“Like I said, I wish he was younger and I could play more years with him. But this year was really special.”
Nowitzki led the team for more than two decades and has become one of the city’s favourite sons.
Doncic, who fast became a crowd pleaser with his dazzling skills, is hoping he one day gets the same treatment as Dirk.
“Dallas fans are great,” he added, “they’ve been great to me.
“Like Dirk said, they’re going to be in Dallas, always.
“I just want to know that Dallas is going to stick with me. I want to stay here.”
Despite his stunning CV for Real Madrid, where he had helped Los Blancos win EuroLeague while being named the MVP, there were still question marks over Doncic at the draft last summer.
Critics thought he would not be able to cope with the elite athleticism of NBA players and he might struggle to adapt to a new culture.
But Doncic proved those doubters wrong and then some – he is now the odds-on favourite to be named Rookie of the Year at the NBA awards on Monday.
He would be only the second European to win the prize, after Pau Gasol in 2002.
Describing his first season in the NBA as “fun”, Doncic also said there is a lot of work to be done this summer.
The Mavs won only 33 of 82 games and missed out on the play-offs.
Doncic, so used to winning, said it was “hard” playing in a losing season but added “next year is going to be different”.
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“We have a lot of great players on the team.
“Coach said, ‘We’re doing something special here.’ I think we’re all ready… We’re gonna fight, we’re going to work hard, we’re gonna try to get into the play-offs.
“I’m not promising that, but we’ll try everything to do it.”
Doncic also added he was going to work on getting better at “everything” – watch out NBA.