DALLAS — So now what?
The Dallas Mavericks have a generational talent in Luka Doncic.
"Even before this series started, he's proven he's a top 5 player in the world," Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle said after the Mavericks lost in Game 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers. "This series certainly validates that."
... but what else do they have? And what do they need to put around him, in order to become a legitimate contender in the West?
"I think that's a question you should ask the guys who make the team, right?," Doncic said when he was asked after Game 7. "I'm just a player here."
Oh, he's not just a player here. He's the player here. And Dallas needs to make him happy. These early years for Luka in Dallas are beginning to feel like the early years for Lebron James in Cleveland. And we know how that turned out.
"This is gonna be an important offseason on many levels," Carlisle said.
Not just important. This summer is mission-critical for the Dallas Mavericks.
Kristaps Porzingis is the source of many frustrations for Mavs fans. Sunday, after the game, he had this to say.
"Overall, it feels like a really long year. With the bubble, and then for myself, also, because of the meniscus, and getting that fixed," he said. "And then I started the season late, without practices, and all those things, kinda adding up. And it's been an up-and-down year."
As far as excuses go, that's actually a pretty good one. But Dallas isn't paying him $158 million to make excuses.
And finally, what about Rick Carlisle? He was asked Sunday if he thinks he's still the right man for the job, 13 years into his time with Dallas.
"That's a question you'll have to ask Mark," Carlisle said. "I obviously do. But why don't you text Mark, and see what he has to say."
I did. It took Mavs owner Mark Cuban all of six minutes to email WFAA back and say yes. No equivocation, no hesitation. The problem isn't Rick Carlisle, and he's not going anywhere. But there are problems, and they need fixing.
"You know, losing in the first round," Carlisle said, "Is something that we don't like doing."
It's all they've done now for a decade. So now what?