Dallas Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison said he didn’t expect the Kyrie Irving trade to spark a playoff run the way his first successful move did a year earlier.
Missing the postseason started the clock early for the Mavs on their attempt to re-sign Irving in free agency and see how the pairing looks long-term with fellow All-Star Luka Doncic.
Irving’s exit interview was Monday, the day after the season ended under the cloud of an NBA investigation. The league announced the investigation after Irving didn’t play and Doncic was limited in the first quarter when Dallas still had a chance to make the play-in tournament with two games remaining.
Irving and Doncic sat out a meaningless season finale after a loss to Chicago in the game in question eliminated the Mavs a season after going to the Western Conference finals.
Harrison said Tuesday that he did not know much about the NBA’s investigation and would not comment further. Dallas’ 0-2 finish put the club in the best possible position to keep a first-round pick that will otherwise go to the New York Knicks, the final piece in Dallas’ 2019 trade for Kristaps Porzingis
The second-year GM wasn’t much more illuminating on the topics of Irving’s future and Doncic’s mindset, who openly expressed his frustration over a lost season and said the off-court issues were his lifting his joy for the match.
“He had a great conversation,” Harrison said of his postseason meeting with Irving, an enigmatic eight-time All-Star acquired in February after telling Brooklyn he wanted to be traded. The move ended a drama-filled stretch with the Nets.
“I think the things he said along the way about how he feels here, how he feels appreciated, how he feels accepted and allowed to be himself,” Harrison said. “I think those are the things he’s said consistently, and that’s what gives me optimism that he wants to be here.”
Doncic said he disagreed with, but understood, the decision to sit Irving and four other regulars the night he played before leaving seconds into the second quarter of a 115-112 loss to the Bulls, when a rag- a group of reserves could not hold an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter.
The 24-year-old said in his postseason interview that he was happy in Dallas, and Harrison said he doesn’t go to sleep at night worrying about Doncic’s future because the four-time All-Star has three years before a player. The option comes under the $215 million rookie supermax contract he signed two years ago.
Still, there’s the question of keeping Doncic happy in Dallas with a lot of recent scenarios around the league of unhappy superstars forcing their way out.
“I don’t know what it means to keep Luka happy here,” Harrison said. “If you win, I guess he’ll be happy. If we win and he’s not happy, then I wouldn’t know how to keep him happy. So I think the goal is to win. it works. It’s going to work for me.”
Before the 2022 trade deadline, Harrison sent Porzingis to Washington in a deal that brought Spencer Dinwiddie to Dallas. Dinwiddie was a big piece of the West’s run to the finals, but he went to the Nets along with defensive ace Dorian Finney-Smith in the deal for Irving.
Harrison said the difference between the results in the two trades was that the Mavs were already in order when they made the move last year. This year, a team that couldn’t find the same defensive formula got even worse in that regard without Finney-Smith, never finding traction.
Doncic and Irving went 5-11 together, and each missed multiple games with injuries. After winning their first two games under Irving, the Mavs went 7-18 the rest of the way.
“I didn’t know if this was going to be like a magic pill. I don’t think I had any vision of it,” Harrison said. “But I thought it couldn’t be any worse than it was. I also saw it as a long-term play, not a short-term play.”
That part is next for Harrison and owner Mark Cuban.
Associated Press report
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