James finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists, but had just two points in the first quarter on free throws and went nearly 11 minutes before attempting a shot. By the time he took that shot, the Cavs were already down 18. “He has to be aggressive and set the tone early,” Lue said. “Especially for these new guys, bringing these guys along. He understood that but once again, he’s always a guy trying to get his teammates off early, get them guys going, then try to feel the game out. But be ready to set a tone.”
September 18, 2018 | 10:54 pm EDT Update
JH: What does it mean to you when people say you are now “The best player in the East?” Giannis Antetokounmpo: There is going to be a lot of people out there that is going to say I am the best in the East and there is going to be some that says that I am not the best in the East, so my mindset is to keep working hard, focus on my game and to continue making my team better. We are trying to get as many wins as possible.
JH: With LeBron out of the East, has your mindset changed? What is your ultimate goal for next season? Giannis Antetokounmpo: The goal is still the same. Of course you have LeBron in the Western Conference. We still have great teams like Boston, Toronto, Philly, Indiana in the East. We just have to continue getting better every day as a team. We have a great team, we have a great coach, and hopefully we will have a great season and take another step forward this year.
JH: You are going to face an immense amount of pressure this season. You are already being a pegged as a favorite to win MVP. What have you been doing to improve your game this summer? Giannis Antetokounmpo: I’ve been working on a lot of shooting and a lot of post moves, been working on my handle and want to get better at finding the right people when I get double-teamed or sometimes triple-teamed. It is just about getting better as an overall basketball player.
To hear some insiders tell it, in Doncic, it is as if the Mavs have acquired a taller version of Jason Kidd, who led Dallas to a championship in 2011 and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this month. “Luka has been playing in the gym with the guys every day and he’s looked great,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “He’s a big body guard, he can move, he can shoot, he’s got unbelievable passing skills. “He’s got passes through the legs and behind the back in scrimmages already, so I think we’re going to have a lot of fun watching him over the years grow even more. He’s fun to watch.”
For the Mavs, the really fun part will be watching the maturation of Doncic in the backcourt with point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who showed amazing grace and talent when he burst onto the scene as a rookie last year. “Obviously we’re all really excited about Luka and him pairing up with Dennis,” said Donnie Nelson, the Mavs’ president of basketball operations. “Two young guys in the backcourt – fire and ice component. “I think they’re really going to play off each other well.”