Tim MacMahonESPN Author4 minutes read
DALLAS — Kyrie Irving made a polite request during a Monday night news conference to introduce him to the Dallas media: Please don’t ask him about his future after this season.
The Dallas Mavericks traded for Irving last week, although they had no assurances he would remain with the franchise after his contract expired at the end of the season. Irving and the Mavs agreed not to discuss a potential contract extension until after the playoffs, and Irving made it clear Monday that he has no intention of speaking publicly on the issue for the rest of the season.
“It’s an unjustified distraction for us and our team,” Irving said before making his home debut for the Mavericks in a 124-121 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. “I’ve dealt with this before, and it’s very emotionally draining to ask questions like, ‘What’s the long term? What is long-term?’”
Irving’s home debut in Dallas was both spectacular and disappointing. He scored 26 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter — the most points in a quarter of his career, according to research from ESPN Stats & Information — but the Mavs’ comeback attempt fell through when they couldn’t get a shot at final possession.
Luka Doncic and Irving passed the ball back and forth a few times before Irving spat out a turnover just before the final buzzer.
“I’m still trying to recover emotionally, man,” Irving said in his post-game media availability, covering his head with his hands. “It’s still so raw. Ah, man. I would have liked at least a shot.”
Because he was recently traded, Irving can only sign a two-year contract extension worth a maximum of $83 million during the season. He could sign a four-year, $220.6 million Supermax extension while on free agency, or re-sign with the Mavs for up to $272 million over five years as a free agent.
The Los Angeles Lakers are among teams that could have significant room for salary caps expected to apply for Irving in the offseason. LeBron James, who won a championship in Cleveland with Irving, has publicly expressed a desire to reunite with him and lamented the Lakers’ failure to complete a trade after they offered Brooklyn an offer from Russell Westbrook and two picks for first had made rounds .
“I can’t sit here and say I’m not disappointed not to be able to land such talent, but (also) someone I’ve had great chemistry with and know has great chemistry with.” ground, that can help you win championships, in my eyes, in my eyes,” James told ESPN’s Michael Wilbon in a wide-ranging interview last week. “But my focus has shifted now. My focus has shifted back to where he should be and that’s this club now and what we have in the dressing room.”
During his 2018-19 season with the Boston Celtics, questions about Irving’s free agency decision swirled around him. He opted to sign with the Brooklyn Nets that summer and form a star partnership with Kevin Durant, which dissolved after Irving requested a trade on Feb. 3, two days before Dallas agreed Dorian Finney-Smith, Guardian Forward Spencer Dinwiddie, sending an unprotected 2029 first-round pick and two second-rounders to win eight-time All-Star guard and reserve forward Markieff Morris.
The move fulfilled the Mavs’ long-standing search for a Superstar who could, at least temporarily, partner with perennial MVP candidate Doncic. The blockbuster deal is widely seen as a massive risk for the Mavs given Irving’s turbulent track record – which also includes demands for a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers and a series of out-of-court controversies with the Nets – and his contract status.
“I don’t see any risk in it,” said Mavs general manager Nico Harrison, a former longtime Nike exec whose relationship with Irving dates back to the Watch’s high school days. “I’ve known Kyrie for a long time. I know its core. I know what kind of person he is. I think anyone who has ever seen him play basketball knows what a basketball player he is.
“So I don’t see the risk involved. I actually see the risk in not making the deal.”
Irving credited his close relationships with Harrison and coach Jason Kidd, his favorite player growing up in New Jersey, as reasons he felt instantly comfortable with the Mavericks.
Irving pointed out that instead of just focusing on this season, it would do the Mavs, who sit fifth in the Western Conference, a disservice if he spotlighted his potential free hand.
“I will say that from the start, since I came here, there has been nothing but a warm hug, nothing but genuine love and nothing but an intimate relationship that I can really count on in times of questions or confusion,” said irving “There is only one positive comment. I only take it one day at a time. That’s all I can do in this life. What the future holds will really only be determined by what I’m doing right now and how I’m preparing for those next steps, and that means being the best teammate I can be in this locker room and a great leader out here and within the Dallas community and within the NBA. I’ll just keep being myself.
“So I just put that to bed and just focus on what we have ahead of us as a team.”