Luka Doncic’s return to on-court action brought excitement. But it was Marquese Chriss who just so happened to steal the show.
In a 95-86 Dallas Mavericks win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Chriss — the replacement player who wasn’t even supposed to be here — scored a team-leading 15 points and hit three 3-point jump shots en route to displaying early signs of a special synergy with Doncic.
“Chriss has been great for us,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said. “His ability to get off the floor quick and also have that second jump, anytime he rolls he puts pressure on the rim. Luka is the best at finding those guys. They understand each other’s game, and I think it’ll help Luka as we go forward.”
It’s hard to explain the unlikely story Chriss has been for Dallas. He went from sitting on the couch to playing big minutes for an NBA franchise in a month. And he’s played well enough to earn a second 10-day contract with the Mavericks.
“I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t any pressure,” Chriss said of playing under his contract situation. “To be able to be back on the court, I am just thankful for that. I am just trying to make the most of the opportunity that I have, and hopefully, it’s here [in Dallas].”
When the Mavericks return to Dallas for Monday’s game against the Denver Nuggets, Nico Harrison and Mark Cuban shouldn’t hesitate to grant Chriss a contract through the rest of the season.
In a roundabout way, he’s an example of the American dream. The underdog story. The will to always find a way. And you can see that desperation in his game. But that is beside the point.
Chriss, an impact Maverick
Chriss, in six games played with Dallas, is averaging eight points per game and 5.5 rebounds. He understands his role and plays it seamlessly. And as a result, his game on the court with Doncic almost makes too much sense.
“It’s just playing hard, trying to make the right play, and understanding where I fit in,” Chriss said. “I love being on the floor with him. And the way that he played, getting everyone the ball and distributing was amazing.”
Chriss also stated that “playing with someone that loves to pass the ball is easy.” He just has to get himself open. Doncic will do the rest.
As is typical with many who play with Doncic, his star-power and ethos make everyone look a little bit better. Chriss is no exception.
What is intriguing is the prospect of Chriss being a capable 3-point threat moving forward. That’s not to say Chriss should be a high-volume 3-point chucker, but if capable of knocking down the open ones off of Doncic pocket passes, Dallas’ offense gets scary.
He will never break 3-point records. And he may not even be a consistent threat from behind the arc (history and his career numbers air in favor of this being the case). But what if he can make the stand-still — spot-up — attempts? Much like the shots he made Sunday night against Oklahoma City.
Would that not be a breath of fresh air for a jump-shooting team that can’t shoot? Wouldn’t that make Kristaps Porzingis and Doncic’s life that much easier on the floor?
Maybe, it’s just a daydream.
And besides, outside of offense, he brings energy to the floor. Something that has been sorely lacking for the Mavericks all season.
When Chriss plays, Dallas’ defense finds the boost of desperation it has lacked for stretches with Doncic. Maybe Chriss could help cover some of Doncic’s defensive sins.
“My role is to just play hard,” Chriss said. “I’m here to keep the energy flowing.”
That has not been in doubt through his six games.
Where to now?
The jury is still out on if Chriss returns to Dallas once his current 10-day contract is up. He wants to be in Dallas. Those that see his impact on the floor want him to play in a Mavericks’ uniform. And Doncic seemingly had instant chemistry with him on the floor.
Yet, as does everything, it comes down to Cuban and Harrison to make the call. The decision should be an easy one regarding Chriss, but that still doesn’t offer any guarantees.
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Feature image via Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports.