The Dallas Mavericks, winners of five of their last 16 games and on the verge of elimination from the playoff race, already have an eye on free agency. Given the free fall this team has been in since the All-Star break, it makes sense. After wrapping up a surprising trade to acquire mercurial All-Star guard Kyrie Irving from the Brooklyn Nets, the Mavericks couldn’t get the best of an Irving-Luka Doncic pairing and instead floundered in the final two months of the season.
The Mavericks are just 4-11 with Doncic and Irving on the field together, in part because the two ball-dominant guards have failed to establish any chemistry, but also because of Dallas’ abysmal defense that ranks just 23rd on the field. ‘All- Stellar break. Individually, Irving did 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 has plans to try to re-sign him this summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Speaking to reporters before Dallas’ game against the Sacramento Kings Wednesday night, team owner Mark Cuban said: Mavericks ‘want to keep’ Irvingand think the team has a good chance to retain him. None of this 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. Still, as bad as it would be for the Mavericks to lose yet another free agent, especially after losing Jalen Brunson to the Knicks last summer, there are tangible reasons Dallas is questioning Irving’s return.
As my CBS Sports colleague Bill Reiter wrote about Irving’s time with the Mavericks, there is
“… Over the past five seasons, Kyrie’s clubs were just as good or better when he was not on the floor. Prior to the trade this season, Brooklyn won 60% of the games Kyrie appeared in, but won 67% of the games he played in.”
For all of Irving’s individual brilliance, he has failed to lead a team to significant playoff success since winning a championship with the Cavaliers in 2016.
But the baggage off the field far exceeds Irving’s limitations on the field. Earlier this season Irving was suspended eight games by the Brooklyn Nets for sharing a social media movie filled with anti-Semitic rhetoric. When given ample opportunity to disavow the film’s themes or apologize, Irving declined. He was limited to just 29 games last season for not being vaccinated against COVID-19, according to New York City’s vaccination mandate, making him ineligible for home games. His departures from all three teams he left: Cleveland, Boston and Brooklyn have been unceremonious, leaving a bad taste in each franchise’s mouth upon his departure.
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The controversy hasn’t reached Irving’s time in Dallas, but what if — or rather when given his history — it does? Irving was reportedly looking for a deal with the Netsthat’s a significant amount of money to shell out to a player whose level of risk often exceeds his basketball talent.
But this is the angle Dallas has painted itself in by acquiring the controversial guard. Giving up valuable resources to get Irving, the Mavericks have to re-sign him, despite several reasons why they shouldn’t.