Luka Doncic and Rick Carlisle's relationship wasn't the best during the head coach's last season with the Dallas Mavericks. Rumored differences between them made things complex for everybody within the organization, which ultimately parted ways with the 2011 NBA champion head coach.
Some folks wondered if Luka had something to do with that decision, but nobody pointed out that the Slovenian point guard actually went against his head coach. However, things weren't that good between the parties, not even at the beginning.
A recent report sheds light on the divorce between the Mavericks, Doncic and Carlisle, and how the coach's attitude towards other people not named 'Luka' earned him a bad look in Doncic's eyes.
Tim MacMahon of ESPN wrote a lengthy piece about this situation and its beginnings, which dates back to Luka's rookie season. At the time, he had developed a friendship with Dennis Smith Jr., who played the same position as the former Real Madrid star. Carlisle didn't like Smith and did everything to diminish him and favor Luka, which didn't sit well with the first-year guard.
It might not have been a basketball fit, but Doncic and Smith had formed a bond. And Carlisle's apparent determination to make Smith miserable during their brief time as teammates was appalling to Doncic, several former players and staffers told ESPN.
Multiple players were shocked during one early-season team meeting when Carlisle accused Smith of being jealous of Doncic, sources said. The players considered it incredibly unfair to Smith, who wasn't playing well but was making an honest effort to mesh with Doncic on the court.
Doncic particularly resented what he perceived as Carlisle's attempt to pit him against his friend and teammate, team sources said.
"It wasn't really about how Rick treated Luka," a Mavs player on the 2018-19 team said. "Luka hated how Rick treated other people."
Moreover, Carlisle starred in another controversy before Luka landed in Dallas. He yelled at former center Salah Mejri after he was ejected from a game. Mejri always felt Carlisle criticized him more than necessary regardless of who was present. Ironically, he had a deep bond with Luka.
FORMER MAVS CENTER Salah Mejri, a player whose fiery emotions often weren't appreciated by referees, picked up two quick technical fouls in the third quarter of a January 2018 win against the Washington Wizards. The second tech was a particularly quick whistle, and Mejri pleaded his case to Carlisle before leaving the court.
"You've got two f---ing points, get the f--- out of here!" Carlisle shouted at Mejri, pointing toward the tunnel to the locker room, an exchange caught by television cameras.
Mejri felt belittled by Carlisle, a team source said, believing the coach targeted him with unnecessarily harsh criticism -- usually in front of the team.
MacMahon points out that Doncic never attempted to get Carlisle fired, and he didn't need to. The head coach wasn't offered a contract extension, with Mark Cuban confirming they would take a different direction starting this season. Now the Mavs have a new head coach in Jason Kidd, who is struggling to find a rhythm with the team amid injuries and the covid-19 outbreak around the league.
This is still Kidd's first season and everybody seems to be on the same page as the former Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach. Still, time will tell if this is the season where Luka takes his team past the first round of the playoffs.