Luka Dončić let the NBA down this week

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The first-ever international exhibition on Sept. 8, 1978, is immortalized for the defending NBA champion Washington Bullets’ loss to Maccabi Tel Aviv by the score of 97-98. Since 2000, when the EuroLeague was founded, NBA teams are 75-17 against Europe’s top teams in exhibitions. Or 17-75 if you want to look at the EuroLeague as the 1972-73 Sixers. When you’re Goliath though, we only remember the slingshots.

The NBA’s annual preseason tour of European club competition stopped in Spain on the home court of the defending EuroLeague champions, Real Madrid. Unfortunately for the NBA’s reputation, Dončić was unavailable to play against his former club due to unspecified ‘hip soreness’ and the Mavericks were beaten 127-123 under NBA rules. I’ve stood up for the NBA’s superiority, but they’re making me look bad.

The cryptic Brian Windhorst in me wonders if it’s a coincidence or not. “What if. What if Dončić could have played? What if this was a silent protest for the NBA’s punishment of the Mavs for resting Kyrie and Luka so they could retain their first-round pick and avoid the play-in? Luka only played five minutes because the NBA’s new Mavs-inspired policy restricts teams from resting more than one star player. It’s all very suspicious considering Dončić was the youngest EuroLeague MVP ever while suiting up for Real Madrid as a teenager. That last bit of intel brings it all together like the first time you read Kobayashi on Detective Kujan’s mug.” (Windhorst meme)

On the heels of sprinter Noah Lyles’ out-of-pocket rant this summer about the NBA’s usage of the world champions label, Dallas’ loss has the casual NBA Know-Nothings in a tizzy.

Of course, it is important to note that Kyrie Irving also didn’t play, and Jason Kidd’s starters only played about half of their usual regular season minutes. NBA players often use these matchups as a tuneup for their bodies. Its teams win 80 percent of their showdowns against the EuroLeague, and the Sixers didn’t even make the play-in. But the world will only notice Dallas’ L.

Maybe I’m wrong and this is the Streisand Effect in play. By merely bemoaning the reaction to Dallas’ loss, I’m amplifying the message ‘NBA dilettantes are espousing. Maybe my inner theory of mind is just screaming into the void.

But at a time when the basketball world is doubting Team USA’s hegemon status, this was a missed opportunity for The Association.

If I were to channel my Screamin’ A, I’d launch into an anti-Luka polemic.

“Doncic sitting out was a betrayal of the NBA and its initiatives to keep players from sitting out excessively. This was corporate treason, is what it was, ladies, and gentlemen.”

“HOW COULD LUKA EVER BE CONSIDERED A FACE OF THE LEAGUE, A MARQUEE STAR IF HE WON’T STAND UP FOR US! (cue crestfallen look of disappointment)

“LUKA LET HIS OLD SQUAD OFF EASY BY NOT DROPPING 30, 40 ON THEIR DOMES IN 20 MINUTES OF LIGHT WORK! “

How hard would it have been to have the EuroLeague champs face the defending WORLD champions? It’s happened before, but at this time we were craving it. I don’t just blame Luka, I blame Adam Silver.

The NBA missed an opportunity to defend its honor by sending the Denver Nuggets abroad for a blitzkrieg of the EuroLeague. Even without Michael Malone last night, the Nuggets played hard with David Adelman manning the sidelines for a primetime preseason matchup against Phoenix, which sounds like a paradox now that I’m reading it out loud.

Jokic wasn’t interested in warming up against Phoenix Tuesday night, shooting 4-for-11 from the field, and going 0-for-3 from distance in 18 minutes. The biggest takeaway from Denver’s viewpoint is that they’ve got a gem in rookie Julian Strawther, but the league dropped the ball here.

Follow DJ Dunson on X: @cerebralsportex

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