The renewal of vows between Kyrie Irving and the Mavericks is being seen as more of a marriage of necessity than one of convenience. Each had little choice in the matter.
Dallas was able to get the peripatetic point guard for a non-max $126 million over three years. The Mavs had to get something done with Irving after trading Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith and three draft picks to the extremely thankful Nets, and the contract’s length means they only have to hold their breath for a few years.
And while there were reports Irving was going to be taking meetings with other clubs, such talk was the cause of much laughter around NBA front offices.
“I don’t think he had anywhere else to go — not unless he wanted to give up a lot of money,” one league source told Heavy Sports. “I just think he tried to create a market for himself, like James Harden is trying to do and like Dame Lillard WILL do.”
Kyrie’s ‘Side Issues’ Hurt His Status
Lillard has an advantage that players like Harden and Irving do not, though. His reputation is almost entirely intact.
“Those guys are trying to dictate where they go, and they’re trying to dictate the market,” the source continued. “Lillard’s got the far better chance, because you know what he can give you and he doesn’t have the same kind of side issues that Harden has. You don’t go after Dame Lillard thinking he’s going to be demanding a trade in a few months. It took him this long to ask out of Portland, when a lot of people around the league were expecting him to get frustrated with things there a long, long time ago. But he hung in. You’ve got to give him credit for that, and we all do. That buys him a lot of room. It adds to his value.
“On the other hand, Kyrie’s had a lot of side issues. If he wasn’t always causing some drama away from the court and making himself unavailable — and that’s not counting the injuries — he’d have been the prime max free agent this summer. But look at what all that sitting out stuff cost him. I know he should already have more money than he’s ever going to need, but we’re talking millions and millions of dollars here.”
“When you have a three-year deal sitting in front of you and there’s nothing else on the table,” said the source, “you sign it.”
Can Kyrie & Luka Doncic Work?
The issue now shifts to the Irving-Luka Doncic on-court relationship. Things didn’t work out well on the results-meter in their limited time together after the February trade. With injuries to both, they shared the court just 16 times and compiled a 5-11 record.
According to multiple Heavy Sports sources, Irving worked hard to gain the trust and faith of his new teammates, but Doncic found it difficult to cede command of the offense. Word that Doncic pushed for Irving’s return may indicate he’s coming around on the need to find harmony and the opportunity for each to enhance the other.
This quote from general manager in a previous Heavy.com story explains what it was like in the season’s last couple of months:
“Kyrie’s behavior was excellent. It was more the fact that Luka had to adjust to playing with such a great player. Everyone there has been saying Kyrie is incredible, and that’s in private, too. Luka’s said it and he means it. But I think that he just doesn’t want to share. He just doesn’t know how. He’s out there on the court and the ball has been in his hands; no matter what, it’s his ball. And now there’s actually consideration that I might need to pass the ball to somebody else and let them do the magic, instead of me just waiting for the clock to run down and shoot a step-back 3 from the hash mark.
“I get that totally, by the way. I understand it. I think it happens all the time in our league. And we forget that Luka’s 24 years old. At some point he’s going to want someone like that, and he just isn’t there yet. Making All-NBA and being in the MVP conversation, those things will be tarnished a little bit if you are playing with someone else that on one-third of the nights needs the ball and is better than you at those times.”
Again, the Mavericks are hoping Doncic and Irving will get their games together.
“They didn’t have a training camp and time to get used to each other,” one scout told Heavy Sports on Monday. “So that didn’t help, even before you get to the part where they both want the ball in their hands.
“I actually think the bigger thing there is that Jason Kidd is putting together a new staff around himself, so really the news there to me is who’s going to be helping coach those guys. What kind of ideas are the new people going to bring in?
“It’s going to be interesting to see how that works out, because those are two of the most talented players in the league.”