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Houston Rockets vs. Dallas Mavericks game preview

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NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Memphis Grizzlies Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

I both love and hate the picture at the top of this post.

The joy from Houston product DeAndre Jordan and Slovenian sensation Luka Doncic is palpable. They’re both having a great time and enjoying life and basketball.

On the other hand, it’s hard not to see the future repercussions of that draft night Doncic trade.

I believe in Luka Doncic. I am 100% a fan. As I looked at mock drafts, I imagined him playing alongside Devin Booker in Phoenix, De’Aaron Fox in Sacramento, or running his own squad in Atlanta. All were great options and would allow me to watch him from afar without having him playing on a division rival.

Of course, the Hawks fell in love with Trae Young (???) and traded back in a shrewd move to get their man, marking the second straight season in which the Dallas Mavericks took my favorite first round pick (non-Texas Tech or Gonzaga division).

Like most rookies, Doncic has struggled to keep up with NBA offenses and put up the numbers that he was dropping in Europe.

Oh wait none of that is true and he’s absolutely killing it on a nightly basis already.

Doncic is averaging a team-high 19 points per game on 45% shooting and 40% from deep. He’s handing out four assists and grabbing just under 7 boards a night. Even more impressive, Dallas is running their late-game offense through him. He’s day-to-day tonight with an illness. Dwight Powell and Dirk Nowitzki are out.

Last season, we talked about how to handle feelings towards the San Antonio Spurs. For years, the Rockets had been a roller coaster of ups and middles, while the Spurs had mostly been riding the highest of highs. The teams and fanbases were able to respect each other because they never faced off in the playoffs. But then two years ago, San Antonio took down the Rockets in six games and almost destroyed James Harden’s legacy (remember that?). It took time and a 3-1 record in the season series to fall back into the old familiar dance of respecting the Spurs while patiently waiting for Pop’s retirement speech.

Dallas has done something different entirely. The Rockets and Mavs faced off twice in the playoffs over the last 15 years and were always hovering around each other in the standings, further increasing tensions along I-45. It’s still an easy hate with the Mavs, but after auto-hating every player that the Mavs (and Jazz, obviously) drafted, it’s become harder to do so when they keep drafting players you like. I don’t want to actively root against Luka for the next 15 years.

So all I can do now is hope that Luka Doncic sucks.

I just don’t think he will.

Tip-off is at 7pm CT