Apparently, Dallas Mavericks fans better get used to what has been an uneasy pairing between franchise pillar Luka Dončić and impending free agent Kyrie Irving — because the New York Daily News’ Stefan Bondy believes Dallas is “boxed in” and in a position where they must re-sign the three-time All-NBA guard or else waste the assets they gave up (Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, 2027 second-round pick, unprotected 2029 first-round pick, 2029 second round-pick) to acquire him.
“The Mavericks have boxed themselves into a position of HAVING to give Irving a long-term contract this summer just to keep him,” Bondy prefaced before saying, “If not, the draft picks and assets used to relieve the Nets of their Irving headache would be a complete waste.”
Bondy believes that the duo of Irving and Dončić, who went just 5-11 as a duo for Dallas together following the trade deadline, is not compatible and only made the Slovenian star “miserable” as the team tanked their chances at a playoff spot away, going 1-5 in the campaign’s final six games.
“They’re not compatible,” Bondy wrote. “Doncic was miserable at the end of the season and openly defied the organizational tank decision.”
‘No Overwhelming Sentiment’ That Lakers Want Kyrie Irving
As per a Western Conference general manager who spoke to Heavy Sports, there is “no overwhelming sentiment” that the Los Angeles Lakers were ready to make a free agent pursuit of Irving since LeBron James is the only person in that organization who even wants the 31-year-old.
“I would not like the message very much if I were on the Lakers or if I were in the front office,” the general manager said (h/t Heavy’s Ashish Mathur). “There’s not an overwhelming sentiment from them like, ‘We gotta go get Kyrie.’ It’s just LeBron.”
The general manager had a warning to James should he go to bat for his friend Irving, tying in a previous situation that ultimately didn’t pan out for either the star forward or the Lakers organization.
“That sets up a big clash, LeBron vs. the org,” the general manager prefaced before saying, “You know, the last time LeBron won a clash like that, they got Russell Westbrook. Maybe he should think about that.”
Without the Lakers as a threat to sign away Irving, the Mavericks become one of the few teams known to be willing to pay the price for the polarizing star.
Analyst: Heat Show Mavericks Where They Went Wrong
The whole premise of Bondy’s piece in the New York Daily News was that the Heat making the 2023 NBA Finals show the Mavericks where they went wrong in not making an honest attempt to make a postseason run. While Dallas could’ve had a chance to partake in the NBA Play-in games, the franchise instead opted to keep its pick (protected 1-10) from the 2019 Kristaps Porzingis trade with the New York Knicks.
Bondy believes that decision is an instant regret considering that Miami is now four games away from a championship with a roster buoyed by a singular star anchor (Jimmy Butler) and a cavalcade of role players peaking at the right time.
“Armed with one of the league’s top players in Luka Doncic, (Dallas) made a hard and rapid pivot from going all-in on the season to tanking it away,” Bondy wrote. “They traded for a win-now piece and the picture of instability, Kyrie Irving. Then they lost and lost more before deciding that keeping a lottery pick outweighed whatever chances Doncic and Irving might’ve had at a playoff run. Now Mark Cuban, the orchestrator of the tank job, is watching the eighth-seeded Heat emerge from the second play-in round to shock the NBA world.”
What the Heat are is what the Mavericks could’ve been, suggested ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, had the team not tanked away.
“Looking at what Jimmy Butler and the Heat have done, you can undersell your great talent in Doncic,” Van Gundy said. “I’m not saying they would’ve advanced and made the playoffs and won big in the playoffs, but Doncic is that good where you always have a fighting chance. So it wouldn’t have been my preferred style if I was Dallas and yet I understand why they did what they did. I would’ve just given Doncic and Irving a chance or any chance they could have to do the unthinkable.”