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Nowitzki had 'plenty of doubts' about Doncic early on

Christian Petersen / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Dallas Mavericks great Dirk Nowitzki admitted he wasn't completely sold on Luca Doncic when the Slovenian first entered the NBA.

During an appearance on the "All the Smoke" podcast with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, Nowitzki recalled having doubts about how big of an impact Doncic would have in the league.

"The end of my career wasn't pretty," Nowitzki said. "We were struggling. There was some talk of tanking going on. We needed a little spark plug to change things. I didn't think it was going to be this kid (Doncic). ... When he walked in the first time, here in this practice facility, you know, he looked like a big boy, but I'm like, 'I'm not sure this is gonna work. Is he quick enough? Is he athletic enough to go by guys like he is in Europe?' And so there were plenty of doubts there from everybody on the team."

Nowitzki added he saw flashes of Doncic's talent during training camp but still didn't expect the guard to become as good as he is today.

As for his role with Doncic, Nowitzki hesitated to call himself a mentor.

"Mentor would be a little strong because he doesn't really need me," Nowitzki said. "As you guys see, he plays like a 32-year-old veteran. How he reads the game, how he carries himself on the court. ... I would love to say I helped him and talked to him about it, but the guy has been a pro since he was like 11 years old, and that's how he plays the game."

Doncic is off to a strong start this season, averaging 31.4 points - second in the league behind Joel Embiid - along with 8.4 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game.

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