Irving stays with Mavs; Doncic gets $126M, 3-year deal

Published 10:07 pm Friday, June 30, 2023

DALLAS (AP) — Kyrie Irving wants to run it back with Luka Doncic.

The enigmatic guard and the Dallas Mavericks agreed Friday on a $126 million, three-year contract in the opening hour of NBA free agency, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because contracts can’t be signed until Thursday.

Irving, who wouldn’t talk about his future during his partial season with Dallas and declined to meet with reporters after the season, appeared to reference his decision to return in a one-word tweet with “peace” and “love” emojis.

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The Mavericks paired All-Star starters for the first time in franchise history by adding Irving in a blockbuster deal with Brooklyn last February, but stumbled down the stretch to miss the playoffs for the first time since Doncic was a rookie in 2018-19.

Dallas was in the middle of the postseason chase when Irving joined the club, but the eight-time All-Star and Doncic, a four-time choice, were just 5-11 together with both missing multiple games because of injuries.

The Mavericks won their first two games with Irving but went 7-18 the rest of the way and couldn’t even make the play-in tournament a year after reaching the Western Conference finals.

Irving originally had been offered an extension by the Nets last summer, before their relationship fell apart and Irving asked to be dealt.

General manager Nico Harrison’s second blockbuster deal for Dallas didn’t provide the spark of his first — a 2022 trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to Washington and gave the Mavs a key playoff contributor in Spencer Dinwiddie.

Dinwiddie was one of two players Dallas sent the Nets, as was defensive stalwart Dorian Finney-Smith. Defense was high on the list of reasons the two-month trial of Doncic and Irving didn’t work.

Doncic has three years remaining before the player option on the $215 million rookie max extension he signed two summers ago. He said after the season he wants to see where the superstar pairing can go.

“I wish we could continue that chemistry, relationship,” said Doncic, who finished second in the scoring race at a career-best 32.4 points per game. “It’s not going to happen in a day, in a week. It’s a building process.”

Dallas’ tumultuous season ended under the cloud of an NBA investigation after Irving didn’t play and Doncic was limited to the first quarter when the Mavs still had play-in hopes with two games remaining.

Irving and Doncic both sat for a meaningless season finale after a loss to Chicago in the game in question eliminated the Mavs a season after they went to the Western Conference finals.

The 0-2 finish helped Dallas retain the 10th pick in the draft, which the Mavs parlayed into a pair of first-round picks in Duke center Dereck Lively II at No. 12 overall and Marquette’s Olivier-Maxence Prosper at 24. Had Dallas dropped to 11th or lower, the pick would have gone to the New York Knicks.

Before the trade, Irving spent three-plus seasons in Brooklyn dealing mostly with self-induced drama.

Irving missed almost all of the home games in 2021-22 because he wouldn’t get vaccinated against COVID-19, and missed eight games early last season after the team suspended him after he tweeted a link to a film containing antisemitic material. Nike ended its relationship with Irving over the tweet.

Days after sending Irving to the Mavericks, the Nets traded Kevin Durant to Phoenix in another blockbuster as the celebrated Brooklyn pairing ended with a whimper — and just one playoff series victory.