Veteran basketball coach Rick Carlisle may not have departed on the best of terms with Dallas, but his relationship with Mavericks star Luka Doncic appears as strong as it has ever been.
In his return to American Airlines Center on Saturday, Carlisle was blessed with a touching tribute video, serving as a reminder and celebration of all the success he achieved with the team as a coach.
After the game, which ended in a Mavs victory, Carlisle showed a mutual level of respect and appreciation, showering the team in praise while hailing Luka as an amazing player and person.
"If [Luka’s] not the best player in the world, he's right on the cusp," said Carlisle, who got to see Doncic up close and personal for the first three seasons of his career. "He's just so, so good and I have always had just great respect for his talent, and everything about his game and him as a person, too. I know what a good guy he is, I've seen a lot of that. He has just gotten better in every way. Every year he has just gotten better and better and better. He’s one guy in today’s game, and there’s a few, who measure every single meter on the court and who always have an answer.”
Over the summer, various stories emerged about a toxic culture within the Mavericks organization. The main culprit? Carlisle, who allegedly rubbed shoulders with Luka over his last few years with the team. Nevertheless, they exchanged a warm embrace after the final buzzer sounded.
Of course, Carlisle didn't stop there. When speaking about the Mavs as a team, he expressed a lot of confidence in their ability to compete going forward.
“That’s a team that's got a real chance,” Carlisle said of the Mavs. “Not only to come out of the West, but they're a good contender. They are very, very good. They are a well-oiled machine and playing at an extremely high level. I’m happy for them. I’m happy for Jason Kidd, happy for Mark [Cuban] – all the people are such great people and it’ll be interesting to watch them down the stretch of the season.”
For a coach whose supposedly dark history got exposed, he had a pretty solid return to his old stomping ground.
Meanwhile, Luka continues to dominate with averages of 25.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game on 43% shooting. After a sluggish start to the season, he has been torching the NBA recently and has Dallas 8 games above .500. At this point, it's clear that he can thrive under the direction of any coach.
Whatever the case, it was great to see such a wholesome reunion and really makes you wonder just what might have been had Carlisle's tenure in Dallas not come to such an abrupt end.