By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
After facing each other in several EuroLeague duels over the years – including the 2018 championship game – Luka Doncic and Nicolo Melli became teammates last week following the Italian forward’s acquisition by the Dallas Mavericks in a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Doncic spoke with excitement about Melli‘s arrival and emphasized on the connection that has already been established between them, describing it as a “European thing.”
“It’s going to be great,” Doncic said. “He’s [Melli] an amazing player. He’s a great person. We connected from the first moment. I know that Europeans connect better. He’s a good person for the locker room and you saw today he was playing great basketball. It was his first game with the team and he was playing great.” Melli combined his Mavs debut with six points during 11 minutes in a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Doncic hadn’t even turned 17 years old when he first played against Melli. It was in a Real Madrid victory over Brose Bamberg on December 2015 and the two players had two points apiece in that match. One year later and while he was rapidly climbing the ranks of the Spanish powerhouse and emerging as a EuroLeague star at an equally fast pace, a “still under driving age” Doncic had 16 points, six rebounds and five assists in a Real rout vs. Bamberg.
The last European clash between Doncic and Melli took place in the EuroLeague Final of 2018 and they were both among the top players on the floor. 24 hours after being named season MVP, Doncic had 15 points and four assists in his last EuroLeague game, to push Real Madrid to the win over Melli’s Fenerbahce while spoiling the latter’s near-heroic performance and career night of 28 points and six rebounds.
“It’s actually better to have him on the team than playing against him,” Melli said. “He’s one of a kind. He’s a special player and he makes it easy for everybody. Also my first shot… he passed an easy shot for him to put me in rhythm. Easy for him.”