DALLAS — After missing a pair of free throws late in the first half, Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic gritted his teeth, grabbed his jersey with both hands and tore it, splitting the “V” in the lettering on his chest.
“Just Hulk Hogan,” Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard said. “He’s a little upset; it’s understandable. Sometimes all of us want to rip our jerseys, you know, go crazy, but we gotta keep our heads. But he’s an unbelievable young player.”
It was the most extreme example of Doncic struggling to deal with his frustration during a 129-114 loss to the Lakers on Friday night, the Mavs’ fifth loss in a seven-game stretch.
Doncic spent much of the first half with his shoulders slumped and his head hanging as the Lakers led by as much as 22 points. He has admitted that he sometimes allows his emotions to negatively affect his play. That appeared to be the case in the first half Friday, when Doncic committed five turnovers and missed five free throws and the Mavs were outscored by 24 points in his 16 minutes.
“I played very bad,” said Doncic, who finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists and 6 turnovers. “I felt like I don’t know how to play basketball. I’ve got to get better — a lot.”
Doncic, a likely All-Star starter in his second season in the NBA, acknowledged that one of the areas that he needs to improve is how he deals with his frustration on the court.
“I’m competitive, and like I say, I’ve got to get better at a lot of points. A lot better,” Doncic said. “I know I can get better. There’s a lot of things. I’m 20 years old. I’ve got a lot of things that I can do better, I can learn better. So I’ll get better.”
Doncic wasn’t the only member of the Mavericks whose frustration boiled over in the loss to the Lakers. Coach Rick Carlisle was ejected when he received his second technical foul with 9 minutes, 50 seconds remaining in the game.
Carlisle’s second technical was called because he profanely objected to LeBron James being allowed to call a timeout to challenge an out-of-bounds ruling after the Mavs had already inbounded the ball. But Carlisle has been particularly aggressive with referees recently, both during games and through the media, especially regarding the physical defense played against Doncic.
“Look, in a leadership position, you’ve got to stand up for your guys,” said Carlisle, who ripped off his suit coat and stomped into the midcourt tunnel while shouting at the officials after being tossed. “There’s some things going on out there that are quite frankly shocking. Our guys are going through a rough time because of it, so I’ve got to stand up and defend them. That’s another part of my job, and I’m going to do it.”
Carlisle was empathetic when asked about Doncic’s difficulties dealing with frustration, referencing the star’s age and making a colorful comparison to himself as a 20-year-old.
“He is a guy that wants to win, and he gets frustrated,” Carlisle said. “Those are emotions and feelings that are about winning and losing, and so I get it. I get it. He’s going through a lot this year. He’s going through just a lot of different situations — some phenomenal performances and other nights where people are just taking physical liberties on him and beating the s— out of him. He’s learning how to deal with all that stuff, but it’s not easy.
“You know, when I was 20 years old, I was walking around as a freshman at the University of Maine. I didn’t know whether to s— or wind my wristwatch. And this guy is a second-year player and he’s going to be a starter in the All-Star Game. I think we’ve got to understand that he’s still young. He’s mature beyond his years in terms of how he sees the game and his skill set and how he can do things out on the floor, but we’re going through a rough stretch right now. Everybody needs to try to keep their emotions in check.”