Sunday, September 24 2023
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The Dallas Mavericks, winners of five out of their last 16 games and on the brink of elimination from the playoff race, already have an eye toward free agency. Given the freefall this team has been in since the All-Star break, it makes sense. After pulling off a surprising trade to acquire mercurial All-Star guard Kyrie Irving from the Brooklyn Nets, the Mavericks have failed to get the best out of an Irving-Luka Doncic duo and instead have floundered in the last two months of the season.

The Mavericks are just 4-11 with Doncic and Irving on the floor together, in part because the two ball-dominant guards have failed to establish any sort of chemistry, but also due to Dallas’ abysmal defense that ranks just 23rd since the All-Star break. Individually, Irving has been doing exactly what Dallas brought him there to do. He’s putting up 26.7 points, six assists and 5.1 rebounds, but that individual success hasn’t translated into wins for the Mavericks. However, despite the lack of success the Mavericks have had with Irving, the team still plans on trying to re-sign him this summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. 

When talking to reporters ahead of Dallas’ game against the Sacramento Kings Wednesday night, team owner Mark Cuban said the Mavericks “want to keep” Irving, and thinks the team has a good shot at retaining him. None of that is surprising from Cuban, given what Dallas gave up to get Irving in the first place. The Mavericks sent Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie and a 2029 first-round pick to Brooklyn to bring in Irving, so losing him for nothing this summer would just be bad business. However, as bad as it would look for the Mavericks to lose yet another free agent, especially after losing Jalen Brunson last summer to the Knicks, there are tangible reasons for Dallas to question bringing Irving back.

As my CBS Sports colleague Bill Reiter wrote about Irving’s time with the Mavericks, there’s little to support that Irving has impacted winning over the last five seasons. 

“…Over the last five seasons, Kyrie’s clubs were either just as good or better when he was not on the floor. Before this season’s trade, Brooklyn won 60% of the games in which Kyrie appeared, but it won 67% of the games he sat.”

For all of Irving’s individual brilliance, he hasn’t managed to lead a team to significant playoff success since winning a championship with the Cavaliers in 2016. 

But the off-court baggage far outweighs Irving’s on-court limitations. Earlier this season Irving was suspended for eight games by the Brooklyn Nets for sharing a film on social media that was filled with antisemitic rhetoric. When given ample opportunity to disavow the film’s themes or apologize, Irving refused. Last season he was limited to just 29 games for failing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, per New York City’s vaccine mandate, making him ineligible for home games. His departures from all three teams he’s left: Cleveland, Boston and Brooklyn were unceremonious, leaving a bad taste in each franchise’s mouth upon his exit.

Controversy hasn’t reached Irving’s time in Dallas, but what happens if — or rather when given his history — it does? Irving was reportedly looking for a deal from the Nets worth nearly $200 million, that’s a significant amount of money to shell out to a player whose risk level often outweighs his basketball talent.

But that’s the corner Dallas painted itself into by acquiring the controversial guard. By giving up valuable assets to get Irving, the Mavericks kind of have to re-sign him, despite the several reasons why they shouldn’t.



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