X

Gregg Popovich: Luka Doncic 'Magic Johnson-Like' After Spurs Lose to Mavericks

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 27, 2019

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 26: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks dribbles the ball against the San Antonio Spurs on December 26, 2019 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
Glenn James/Getty Images

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is an all-time great who has coached against some of the best players in NBA history.

He recognizes greatness when he sees it.

"I hate to say this: He's not Magic Johnson, but it's Magic Johnson-like in the sense that he sees the floor in that same way," Popovich said of Luka Doncic following the Dallas Mavericks' 102-98 win over the Spurs on Thursday, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN. "He's got a real intuitive sense, and you can't teach that. He's just got it, and he's great at it. I'm not trying to put the Magic Johnson pressure on him—he's not ready for that yet—but he's doing a hell of a job."

It was Doncic's first game since Dec. 14 because of a sprained ankle.

He acknowledged he was "pretty tired going to the end of the game," but that didn't stop him from leading the Mavericks with 24 points and eight assists to go with 10 rebounds. "Magic-like" is massive praise for anyone, let alone a second-year player who is just 20 years old, but MacMahon noted Doncic already has a league-leading 23 games with at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists.

LeBron James is second, and he is four behind the Mavericks playmaker.

Doncic is in the middle of the MVP discussion with 29.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 1.2 steals per night, and he also has Dallas (20-10) in position to make the playoffs. It occupies the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference but is just one game behind the No. 2 seed Denver Nuggets.

Johnson won five championships during his legendary career with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Doncic will be judged by his postseason success.

If he puts up numbers in the playoffs like he has in the regular season, he should enjoy plenty.