SAITAMA, Japan — Luka Doncic is only a 22-year-old Olympic rookie, a player who might still be a few years away from his best basketball.
Sergio Hernandez doesn’t need to wait.
“For me, I said this two years ago: He is the best player in the world, including the NBA,” Argentina’s coach said. “And if there was any doubt in my mind, there is no doubt anymore. He is the best player in the world.”
Hard to argue after Doncic’s performance Monday at the Saitama Super Arena.
Doncic made a spectacular Olympic debut with 48 points, tied for the second-highest total in men’s basketball history, to lead Slovenia to a 118-100 victory.
In Slovenia’s first Olympic game ever, Doncic scored 31 points in the first half, putting him on pace to break the Games’ scoring record of 55 points by Brazilian Hall of Famer Oscar Schmidt in 1988.
Though he didn’t have to do as much in the second half with Slovenia’s huge lead, the superstar guard for the Dallas Mavericks stayed on the floor well into the fourth quarter and ended up tied with Eddie Palubinskas, who had 48 for Australia in the 1976 Games in Montreal.
There was still enough time left to break the record when Doncic checked out with a few minutes left, but he wasn’t interested in pursuing more points.
“I don’t care about records,” he said. “We got a win and that’s what we came here for.”
His teammates wanted both.
“Everybody was telling him on the bench, ‘OK, let’s get the record,'” veteran Zoran Dragic said.
“But that’s not the case. The case is to win the game. He knows that, and it’s crazy that he’s only 22 years old.”
Slovenia didn’t even have a spot in the Olympics until earlier this month but is a medal threat thanks to Doncic, who had a historic first postseason in the NBA and might just do the same in the Olympics.
Luis Scola scored 23 points for Argentina. Facando Campazzo of the Denver Nuggets added 21.
The opening day of play in Group C started with Luka against Luis, the phenom against the 41-year-old veteran who was beginning his record-tying fifth Olympics in men’s basketball.
But it was quickly clear Doncic would be the star of this show with 15 points before the game was five minutes old.
“He was too good obviously,” Scola said. “I mean, he was unbelievable.”
Casually launching his step-back 3-pointers from well behind the international 3-point arc – one came from just inside the TOKYO 2020 logo at center court – Doncic shot from places where Argentina just couldn’t come out to defend.
When they tried, he just took his game inside, getting consecutive baskets on follow shots in the second quarter on his way to 11 rebounds.
That came during a 23-8 finish to the half for Slovenia, extending a 39-34 lead to 62-42 at the break.
Manu Ginobili was impressed, the Argentine idol tweeting at halftime that Doncic was “a beast” and praising his “tremendous mastery of the game.”
Doncic had already shown he had that playing in Europe even before going on to win Rookie of the Year honors in the NBA. In his second season, he became the first NBA player to average 30 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in his first postseason series.
His first Olympics might be even better than that.
Slovenia has been a country on the rise, winning the EuroBasket title in 2017 and then qualifying for Tokyo by winning one of the Olympic qualifying touraments earlier this month. The Slovenians knocked off host Lithuania in the final after Doncic went right to playing for his country after the Mavericks were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.
Argentina, the 2004 Olympic champions, were thought to be past their years of challenging for titles when Ginobili and some other stars from that era called it a career.
But Scola is still here and the Argentines showed they’re not done just yet when they made a surprise run to the gold-medal game two years ago in the Basketball World Cup, losing to Spain but not until after clinching their spot in the Olympics.
Spain is also in Group C along with host Japan, but even those games shouldn’t be any tougher than playing against Doncic.
“We tried everything that we would have tried against a normal player,” Hernandez said, “but he’s not a normal player.”
Sources: MAC votes to accept UMass as member
The University of Massachusetts is set to join the MAC in all applicable sports for the 2025-26 school year, sources told ESPN on Monday.
UMass is an independent in football but plays in the Atlantic-10 in basketball and the vast majority of the school’s other sports. UMass’ hockey program will remain in the Hockey East as the MAC does not have a hockey league.
The MAC presidents voted to invite UMass on Monday, as the school had already formally applied to the league. The timing of an announcement is not known, but UMass is set to accept and finalize the details of the arrangement in the near future. Once a school formally applies in conference realignment, there’s usually an understanding that they will be accepted and enter that league.
UMass had also been engaged with Conference USA, per sources. Ultimately, the MAC made more geographic sense, and it also houses more of the sports that UMass offers. UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford made clear in recent comments that joining a league was a priority for UMass.
The move of UMass to the MAC will leave Notre Dame and Connecticut as the lone independents in college football, with Army set to join the American Athletic Conference in the upcoming season.
In basketball, the news is a jolt to the Atlantic 10 Conference, where UMass has had a home since 1976. UMass’ Final Four appearance in 1996 is the only Final Four appearance in Atlantic 10 history. (Three other A-10 teams — VCU, Loyola Chicago and George Mason — have had Final Four appearances, but these all came prior to joining the league.)
UMass will request to stay in the Atlantic 10 as an affiliate member for men’s and women’s lacrosse only, according to a source.
UMass has some familiarity in the MAC for football, having played four seasons in the league from 2012 to 2015. UMass eventually declined full membership in the MAC, which was part of the contract, and led to the school’s departure.
The move brings the MAC up to 13 teams and will open speculation as to whether the league will add a 14th member for balance. There had been discussions about Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky back in 2021, per sources, and those schools would again top any speculative lists.
UMass will play its final season as a football independent this year, and its schedule includes five current MAC members. The Athletic first reported the MAC’s vote on UMass.
Dodgers trade Margot to Twins, add Hernández
After shopping Margot, 29, in recent days, the Dodgers struck a deal to send the Twins the outfielder and shortstop prospect Rayne Doncon for shortstop prospect Noah Miller. The Dodgers also will send cash to help cover the $12 million owed Margot — $10 million this year and a $2 million buyout on a $12 million club option, a source told ESPN.
Hernández, who emerged during a six-year stint with the Dodgers and returned to Los Angeles in a trade last July, had considered a number of other teams before the trade paved the way for another stretch with the Dodgers.
Now 32, Hernández underwent double hernia surgery in the offseason but is expected to be ready around opening day. Hernández hit .262/.308/.423 in 54 games with the Dodgers last year, more in line with his career numbers than his .222/.279/.320 line with the Twins and .222/.291/.338 showing in an injury-pocked 2022 with Boston.
Margot, an eight-year veteran, had been traded to the Dodgers with right-hander Tyler Glasnow in December. He will help relieve Byron Buxton in center and joins a reigning American League Central champion lineup that is deep in bats. Margot hit .264/.310/.376 with four home runs in 336 plate appearances for Tampa Bay last season and is regarded as a slightly above-average defensive center fielder.
The swap of shortstop prospects sends Doncon, who signed with the Dodgers for a little under $500,000 in January 2021, to Minnesota while Miller, the 36th pick in the amateur draft that year, heads to Los Angeles.
Doncon, 20, hit .216/.283/.368 in Low-A last year and can also play second and third base. Miller, 21, slashed .223/.309/.340 in High-A and is considered a well-above-average defensive shortstop.
Sources: Iowa State to promote Mouser to OC
Iowa State is set to promote Taylor Mouser to offensive coordinator, part of several staff moves for the offense after Nate Scheelhaase left for the NFL, sources told ESPN on Monday.
Mouser has served as Iowa State’s tight ends coach since 2021 and added an assistant head coach title in 2023. He has been part of coach Matt Campbell’s staff in various roles, on and off the field, throughout Campbell’s tenure with the Cyclones.
Mouser will replace Scheelhaase, ISU’s offensive coordinator in 2023, who recently left to become the passing game specialist for the Los Angeles Rams.
Iowa State also is set to hire Tyler Roehl as running backs coach and assistant head coach, sources told ESPN. Roehl spent the past five seasons as North Dakota State‘s offensive coordinator and was the top internal candidate for NDSU’s head-coaching role. He recently left to become offensive coordinator at Tennessee State.
Jake Waters, who last week was promoted to running backs coach, instead is set to handle the quarterbacks, according to a source. Wide receivers coach Noah Pauley will serve as ISU’s pass game coordinator, and offensive line coach Ryan Clanton will be run game coordinator for the 2024 season.
Mouser served as a graduate assistant under Campbell at Toledo (2015) and Iowa State (2016) before becoming ISU’s assistant director of scouting.
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