Mavericks, Mark Cuban gamble big with Kyrie Irving trade

No one believes in the power of change more than Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

He changed the way NBA owners behaved, wearing team gear and sitting on the floor near the bench. He changed the way the league rates its referees, introducing analytics and quotas. Heck, he’s on a TV show, “Shark Tank,” that changes the fortunes of small business owners weekly.

And now, he apparently believes he can change Kyrie Irving.

“Cuban didn’t get where he is,” said one Eastern Conference general manager, “by not taking risks.”

It’s not so much what the acquisition of Irving from the Brooklyn Nets cost the Mavericks (Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, a first-round pick and two second-round picks) as not knowing which Irving the Mavericks are getting. Will he be the one who helped deliver the only championship to the Cleveland Cavaliers and can he compete with any scoring point guard in the league? Or the one who hasn’t played more than 54 games in any of the past four seasons, forced his way out of two different teams and been constantly mired in controversy?

“Hopefully,” said a league source familiar with the Mavericks’ thinking, “they get the best out of Kyrie.”

That could depend on whether Cuban has made a stronger commitment to him than Nets owner Joe Tsai was willing to make. Irving told the Nets last week, according to multiple reports, that he wanted to be traded before Thursday’s deadline, after the team balked at giving him a four-year extension with a fully guaranteed maximum salary.

“Dallas probably gave him some kind of guarantee that it’s going to be close to the number that he wants or expects,” the Eastern Conference general manager said.

But sources familiar with the thinking of the Mavericks and Irving said flatly “no” when asked if the team and Irving already have an extension agreement.

One even described the Mavericks acquisition as “a rental.”

And while there were reports that several teams were interested in Irving, few reports said anything about what was being offered or the willingness of interested teams to give Irving the extension the Nets were looking for, perhaps for some reason.

“I could see a team willing to pay him max numbers,” said one Eastern Conference scout, “but maybe only on a two-year deal for the team, again with everything tied to availability”.

That, league sources say, was one of several obstacles in the Los Angeles Lakers’ attempt to reunite Irving with LeBron James, his teammate on the Cavs’ championship-winning team. The Lakers were willing to include one of their future first-round picks in 2027 or 2029 only on the condition that Irving re-sign with them, a source close to the team said, and if James took the responsibility to keep Irving in line. .

The Lakers also had to involve a third team in the deal because the Nets weren’t interested in the centerpiece of their offer, sixth player Russell Westbrook and his expiring $47 million contract. The Nets intend to keep their championship hopes alive this season and thus discourage their remaining star, Kevin Durant, from reviving his trade demand last summer. So the Lakers needed a third team to take Westbrook and his conditional pick in exchange for sending the Nets players they considered equal or an improvement over what they were losing in Irving.

An executive very familiar with both Westbrook and Durant dismissed the latter’s desire to play with Westbrook again. The two may have a friendly relationship now, the executive said, but Durant has no desire to play with Westbrook after their eight-year run together in Oklahoma City ended nearly seven seasons ago.

The Spurs, a league source said, were willing to be the third team the Lakers needed, but it’s unclear which players they were willing to send to the Nets or what compensation they wanted to deal Westbrook.

Irving has a great record of trips for an eight-time All-Star, considering this is his fourth team in 12 seasons. Blame it or credit him for being possibly the most talented yet enigmatic player the league has ever seen. His mesmerizing ball handling and shot creation makes it hard to guess exactly where he’s going on the court; his behavior and attitude towards him are equally unpredictable. One day he declares he wants to stay with a team forever, and the next he asks to be traded or certified as a free agent. He seems eager to be taken seriously, but insisted for a while that the world was flat. He presents himself as an agent for positive change, supporting a variety of charitable causes, but peddles debunked conspiracy theories and endorsed one by far-right provocateur Alex Jones. He regularly shares spiritual axioms on social media, but he also posted a highly anti-Semitic movie cover without explanation, only apologizing after being excoriated by everyone from Nets owner Joe Tsai to the union players to commissioner Adam Silver.

And after repeatedly saying that all he cared about was leading the Nets to a championship, he successfully forced the exit of a 32-20 team that is currently fourth in the Eastern Conference and to the 28-26 Mavs, that have four breathing teams. neck and neck for the sixth and final guaranteed playoff spot in the West.

The Mavs’ interest in Irving makes sense as another attempt to find a championship-caliber partner for forward Luka Dončić. First, in another forced trade scenario involving a New York team, they acquired Kristaps Porzingis from the Knicks. That experiment lasted less than three seasons before they sent Porzingis to the Wizards. Point guard Jalen Brunson filled the void, but was apparently deemed not big enough as a star and left as a free agent for a better offer (from the Knicks).

Rival scouts, however, are not sure about this tandem either. It makes the Mavs extremely isolated on offense at a time when that style is being rewarded over defense. But that generally changes in the playoffs, when more physical play is allowed and fewer fouls are called. Neither Irving nor Dončić are considered quality defenders, and the Mavs were already 24th in defensive rating before the deal.

“Huge risk for Dallas,” said one Western Conference scout. “The adjustment with Luka is not great.”

Irving and his agent mother, Shetellia Riley Irving, however, are thrilled with the move, said a source familiar with his thinking. Mavs general manager Nico Harrison was hired last summer after nearly two decades with Nike, where he cultivated relationships with some of the NBA’s biggest stars, including Irving (Harrison had left the Mavs before Nike ended his relationship with Irving this fall, a move inspired in part by Irving’s tacit endorsement of the anti-Semitic film, “Hebrews to Negroes, Wake Up Black America!”).

Irving is also excited to play for Hall of Fame point guard and Mavs head coach Jason Kidd.

Of course, Irving got emotional after being forced out of Cleveland to the Boston Celtics, and again when he left the Celtics after one season to join Durant in Brooklyn. Maybe that’s why an executive from one of Irving’s first three teams cleared the deal.

“Terrible decision by Dallas,” the executive said. “This will be business as usual.”

Cuban apparently thinks otherwise, and he’s willing to put his quick-change skills to the test to prove it.

Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has written two books, “Rebound,” about NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with young-onset Parkinson’s, and “Yao: A Life In Two Worlds”. He also has a daily podcast, “On The Ball with Ric Bucher.” Follow him on Twitter @Rick Bucher.

FOX Sports Top Stories:

Get more from the National Basketball Association Follow your favorites for information on games, news and more

Source link

Leave a Comment