In the opening hour of NBA free agency, an enigmatic guard reached an agreement with the Dallas Mavericks on a lucrative three-year contract worth $126 million. The deal, disclosed by an anonymous source familiar with the negotiations to The Associated Press, is yet to be officially signed due to contractual restrictions until Thursday. Throughout his partial season with Dallas, the guard, Irving, remained tight-lipped about his future and chose not to engage with reporters after the season ended. However, he seemed to allude to his decision to stay with the Mavericks in a cryptic tweet featuring the words “peace” and “love” emojis.
Last February, the Mavericks orchestrated a monumental trade with the Brooklyn Nets, adding Irving to their roster and pairing him with their existing All-Star, Doncic. This marked the first time in franchise history that the Mavericks had two All-Star starters. Unfortunately, the team struggled down the stretch and failed to secure a playoff spot, a departure from their previous success in reaching the Western Conference finals during Doncic’s rookie season in 2018-19. Although Irving’s arrival initially showed promise with the Mavericks winning their first two games, their overall performance declined, going 7-18 for the remainder of the season. Both Irving and Doncic faced injuries that caused them to miss multiple games, hindering their ability to develop synergy on the court.
Prior to his move to Dallas, Irving had been offered a contract extension by the Nets the previous summer. However, due to a deteriorating relationship between Irving and the organization, he expressed his desire to be traded. In a subsequent blockbuster deal facilitated by General Manager Nico Harrison, the Mavericks acquired Irving and sent two players, including defensive stalwart Dorian Finney-Smith, to the Nets. Nonetheless, the defensive struggles of the Mavericks persisted, contributing to the challenges faced by the Doncic-Irving pairing.
Doncic, who finished the season as the league’s second-leading scorer with an impressive 32.4 points per game, expressed his desire to continue building chemistry and a strong relationship with Irving. Recognizing that achieving their potential as a superstar duo will require time and patience, Doncic emphasized that it is a gradual process.
The Mavericks’ turbulent season concluded under the shadow of an NBA investigation, as Irving did not play, and Doncic was limited to only the first quarter in the team’s penultimate game, when they still had hopes of qualifying for the play-in tournament. Ultimately, both players sat out the final game of the season, which held no significance in the standings, after the Mavericks’ playoff aspirations were dashed by a loss to the Chicago Bulls. Despite the disappointing finish, the Mavericks managed to retain the 10th pick in the NBA draft, securing the opportunity to select promising prospects such as Duke center Dereck Lively II at No. 12 overall and Marquette’s Olivier-Maxence Prosper at 24. If the Mavericks had dropped to the 11th or lower position, the draft pick would have been transferred to the New York Knicks.
It is worth noting that Irving’s presence at home games was significantly limited during the 2021-22 season due to his refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Furthermore, he faced an eight-game suspension early in the season after posting a tweet that included a link to a video containing antisemitic content, which resulted in Nike terminating its endorsement deal with him.
Shortly after Irving’s departure, the Nets made another blockbuster trade, sending Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns. This move marked the end of the celebrated pairing in Brooklyn, which failed to live up to expectations and yielded only a single playoff series victory.