Irving has first practice with Mavericks, preps for debut
By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Basketball Writer
Kyrie Irving had his first practice with Dallas on Tuesday, and was asked if he envisioned any problems playing alongside Mavericks star Luka Doncic.
Irving’s answer: “No.”
The Mavs clearly see it the same way.
Irving’s Dallas chapter has started, with a practice in Los Angeles preceding what’s expected to be his debut game there when the Mavericks visit the Clippers on Wednesday night. The Mavericks struck a deal Sunday to acquire the eight-time All-Star from the Brooklyn Nets.
“I’ve played with some of the best of all time, greatest of all time,” Irving said. “I’ve been on some of the greatest teams, the Olympics and the world championships. This is going to be my first time seeing one of those bad Europeans come over and really dominate up close — and have the opportunity to do it at a pace that I don’t think has ever been seen before other than like Larry Bird.”
For his part, Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said he expects Irving and Doncic to figure things out quickly.
“This isn’t two 23-year-olds trying to see who’s the alpha,” Kidd said. “We understand, this is Luka’s team. It will be Luka’s team.”
Irving was all smiles Tuesday, for good reason. He’s excited to be with the Mavericks, just as they were excited to get him.
“The combination of Kyrie and Luka will be fun to watch,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said.
Brooklyn had a similar thought in 2019 when the Nets landed Irving and Kevin Durant, thinking they would be the pieces that brought a championship. They wound up playing only 74 regular-season games together.
Irving’s time with the Nets was often tumultuous. He took leaves of absence in the 2020-21 season, had to miss much of the 2021-22 season because he wouldn’t get vaccinated against COVID-19 and therefore wasn’t compliant with New York City workplace rules, and this year was suspended eight games after posting a link to a film with antisemitic messaging.
He eventually was welcomed back to the Nets, and played at an All-Star level once again. But when it was time to discuss an extension, the relationship soured again when Irving didn’t like whatever answer the Nets gave. He asked for a trade, and Brooklyn quickly accommodated him.
“I just know I want to be places where I’m celebrated, and not just tolerated or kind of dealt with in a way that doesn’t make me feel respected,” Irving said. “There were times throughout this process when I was in Brooklyn that I felt very disrespected. I work extremely hard at what I do. No one ever talks about my work ethic, though. Everyone talks about what I’m doing off the floor. I just want to change that narrative and write my own story and just continue to prepare in the gym and now that I’m in Dallas just focus on what I can control.”
He was asked what, specifically, left him feeling disrespected in Brooklyn.
“That’s another day where I can really go into detail about it,” Irving said.
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