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Luka, Kristaps take over from Nowitzki

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DALLAS — Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are the Euro stars of the future for the Dallas Mavericks now that Dirk Nowitzki has retired after a record 21 seasons.

The rookie sensation from Slovenia and the 7-foot-3 Latvian didn’t get to play together in the two months after Dallas acquired Porzingis in a blockbuster trade with the New York Knicks.

The decision to push the recovery past the one-year mark on Porzingis’ knee injury was essentially an admission by the Mavericks that their focus was on 2019-20.

And now that an emotional two-day send-off for the NBA’s most decorated European player is over, Dallas can concentrate on ending a playoff drought that covered Nowitzki’s final three seasons — the longest of the big German’s career.

OAKLAND, CA – MARCH 23: Kristaps Porzingis #6 and Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks warm up prior to a game against the Golden State Warriors on March 22, 2019 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images/AFP

The Mavericks didn’t win a playoff series in eight seasons with Nowitzki after he led them to their only championship.

“I cannot tell you what to expect,” said Doncic, the overwhelming favorite for rookie of the year despite the second 33-49 record in three seasons for Dallas with a 24-58 clunker in between.

“All I can tell you is we’re gonna fight, we’re going to work hard, we’re gonna try to get into the playoffs. I’m not promising that, but we’ll try everything to do it.”

There is some business to take care of before the pairing of Porzingis with Doncic can become official. The 2018 All-Star is a restricted free agent with a $4.5 million qualifying offer.

OAKLAND, CA – MARCH 23: Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the Dallas Mavericks warms up before the game against the Golden State Warriors on March 23, 2019 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images/AFP

Owner Mark Cuban said during Porzingis’ introductory news conference that the club wanted to sign him to a long-term deal. Rape allegations against Porzingis in New York and a counterclaim of extortion have surfaced since then, and the Mavericks aren’t saying how that case affects their plans for signing him.

“Based on the nature of that, I can’t comment on it,” president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said Thursday.

“But Kristaps is our No. 1 priority in the offseason.”

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