When the Hawks drafted Luka Doncic and immediately traded him to Dallas for its later pick, Trae Young, and another lottery-protected 2019 pick, of course the spontaneous reaction on this end of the deal was to label it horrid.
Even if none of us really knew Luka Doncic from Luca Brasi. But we had grown to know the Hawks, and that was enough. If they did it, odds are it wouldn’t work. Like big government, the Hawks had earned the gag reflex of distrust.
Doncic would be a difference-maker. Young would keep us entertained for a while. Just as sure as night follows day and a stink follows a rodeo.
So, that was the assumption I took to my couch Wednesday night when the Hawks played at Dallas and these two principals matched up. Maybe you watched, too, just for the chance to pass premature judgment.
Of course, to anyone with the sports package, the couch is the equivalent of the jurist’s high-back chair. This is where we rule, while licking the fluorescent Cheeto dust from our fingertips. There, if nowhere else in this life, our word is law. And it can be harsh.
Granted, given where the Hawks stand now, we currently are overseeing a small-claims court. But, still, on occasion, they need to be heard.
That the Hawks lost the game to Dallas – 114-107 – was almost inconsequential. The matchup between Young and Doncic – who will be linked forever, like daytime TV and personal-injury lawyer ads – was bigger than any one game. There were preconceptions to justify.
And the judgment: Down somewhere in my soul, past where the little accountant works the numbers, Doncic just looks like the better choice. He shows more the potential to be special, but then it is always easy in this game to default to the 6-foot-7 guy over the 6-2 one as both are bringing it up the floor and both are maneuvering around the basket. I remain skeptical of the deal. How ’bout you?
But, as ready as I was to capitalize and underscore my objections to the trade this night, I couldn’t quite.
Both scored 24 on Wednesday. Young’s was the more efficient – he shot .550 from the field compared with Doncic’s .357. Doncic decorated his stat line with 10 rebounds (0 for Young) and six assists (10 for Young). Both were eminently watchable (yes, a Hawks game can be that). And both at times betrayed their rookie status.
What Doncic showed was that he is still 19. No matter that he has spent years playing against grown and serious men in Europe, he still has some experience to put on over here, where the game has even broader shoulders.
Wednesday caught him in the throes of a shooting malaise. This stranger whom, sight unseen, we were ready to label the great squandered opportunity – he can miss, too. This was Doncic’s sixth consecutive game shooting less than 50 percent (in fact, he’s been at 31 percent over that stretch). The fellow does have a knack for getting to the free-throw line, though, which certainly will serve him well.
As for Young, he performed just enough driving acrobatics to elicit at least two jaw-drops. And also took just enough soul-crushing shots from the parking lot to make an older fellow on his couch want to pull out all his ear hair and swear off the NBA in favor of televised Texas Hold ’Em.
This head-to-head was not quite as conclusive as I anticipated. Not exactly the kind of game in which one could scream at the TV: “See, there, I told you.” Sometimes after a game like this, all you get to keep at the end are your suspicions.
But, while the Hawks and Mavs are through with each other this season, there will be plenty of other chances to measure these two in years hence. Keep the couch warm. The court of public opinion is always in session.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.