Luka Doncic, an Olympic rookie at 22 years old, is still a player who may be just a few years away his best basketball.
Sergio Hernandez does not need to wait.
Argentina's coach stated, "For me, this is what I said two years ago: He was the best player in all of the world, even the NBA." "And if you had any doubts in your mind, they are gone now. He is the greatest player in the world."
It's hard to argue with Doncic's performance Monday night 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 against Argentina.
Doncic scored 31 points during the first Olympic match in Slovenia. This puts him on pace for breaking the Games' scoring record of 55 by Oscar Schmidt, the Brazilian Hall of Famer.
Although he wasn't as involved in the second quarter due to Slovenia's large lead, the Dallas Mavericks' superstar guard remained on the court well into the fourth quarter. He was tied with Eddie Palubinskas who had 48 points for Australia at the 1976 Games in Montreal.
Doncic was left with enough time to break the record, but he didn't want to pursue more points.
He said, "I don’t care about records." "We won and that's why we came here."
Both were desired by his teammates.
"Everybody was telling him, " veteran Zoran Dragic, "OK, let's get it,"
But that is not the case. It is important to win the game. He is aware of that fact, which is why he's only 22.
Slovenia was not even eligible for the Olympics at the time of this writing, but Doncic's historic first postseason in NBA made him a medal threat.
Luka versus Luis was the opening day of play for Group C. The phenom faced the veteran, who was about to begin his fifth Olympics in men’s basketball.
Doncic was the show's star with 15 points just five minutes into the game.
Scola stated, "He was too great obviously." He was amazing, I mean.
Doncic launched his step-back 3-pointers casually from behind the international 3-point line -- one was just inside the TOKYO 2020 logo in center court -- Doncic shot from areas that Argentina couldn't defend.
He refused to try, and he took his game inside. He scored consecutive baskets on follow shots during the second quarter, on his way 11 rebounds.
This came as Slovenia finished the half with a 23-8 win. Slovenia had a lead of 39-34 to 62-42 at 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 already showed that he could play in Europe, even before he was awarded Rookie of Year in the NBA. He became the first NBA player to achieve a 30 point, 8 rebounds, and eight assist average in his second season.
Perhaps his first Olympics was even more amazing.
Slovenia is a country that has seen great success, having won the EuroBasket title in 2017 as well as qualifying for Tokyo with a win at one of the Olympic qualifying touraments earlier in the month. After Doncic was eliminated by the Mavericks in round one, Doncic jumped right into playing for Slovenia and knocked off the host Lithuanians in the final.
Argentina, the 2004 Olympic champions were thought to have retired from their years of competing for titles. Ginobili, along with other stars from that era, called it a career.
Scola is still with us and the Argentines proved that they aren't done yet when they won the gold-medal match in the Basketball World Cup two years ago. They lost to Spain, but they did win the game after securing their place in the Olympics.
Spain, along with host Japan is in Group C. However, even those games shouldn’t be as difficult as playing against Doncic.
Hernandez stated that Hernandez tried "everything we would have done against a normal opponent," but "he's not an ordinary player."