DALLAS — Kyrie Irving made a polite request during a news conference Monday evening to introduce him to the Dallas media: Please do not ask him about his future beyond this season.
The Dallas Mavericks traded for Irving last week despite not having any assurances that he would remain with the franchise after his contract expires at the end of the season. Irving and the Mavs agreed not to discuss a potential contract extension until after the playoffs, and Irving made it clear Monday that he does not intend to talk about the subject publicly for the remainder of the season.
“It puts unwarranted distractions on us and our team,” Irving said before making his home debut for the Mavericks in a 124-121 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. “I’ve dealt with it before, and it’s very emotionally draining to ask questions like, ‘What’s the long term? What’s the long term?'”
Irving’s home debut in Dallas was both spectacular and disappointing. He scored 26 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter — the most points in any quarter of his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information research — but the Mavs’ comeback attempt fell short when they failed to get a shot up on the final possession.
Luka Doncic and Irving passed the ball back and forth a few times before Irving coughed up a turnover just before the final buzzer.
“I’m still trying to emotionally recover, man,” Irving said in his postgame media availability, covering his head in his hands. “It’s still so raw. Ah, man. I would have liked to at least get a shot up.”
Because he was recently traded, Irving is eligible to sign only a two-year contract extension worth a maximum of $83 million during the season. He could sign a four-year, $220.6 million supermax extension during free agency or re-sign with the Mavs for up to $272 million over five years as a free agent.
The Los Angeles Lakers are among the teams that could have significant salary-cap space that are expected to be suitors for Irving in the offseason. LeBron James, who won a championship in Cleveland with Irving, has publicly expressed a desire to reunite with him and bemoaned the Lakers’ failure to get a trade done after they made an offer to Brooklyn of Russell Westbrook and a pair of first-round picks .
“I can’t sit here and say I’m not disappointed on not being able to land such a talent, but [also] someone that I had great chemistry with, and know I got great chemistry with on the floor, that can help you win championships, in my mind, in my eyes,” James told ESPN’s Michael Wilbon as part of a wide-ranging interview last week “But my focus is shifted now. My focus is shifted back to where it should be and that’s this club now and what we have in the locker room.”
Questions about Irving’s free agency decision swirled around him throughout his 2018-19 season with the Boston Celtics. He chose to sign that summer with the Brooklyn Nets, forming a star partnership with Kevin Durant that broke up after Irving requested a trade on Feb. 3, two days before Dallas agreed to send forward Dorian Finney-Smith, guard Spencer Dinwiddie, an unprotected 2029 first-round pick and two second-rounders to acquire the eight-time All-Star guard and reserve forward Markieff Morris.
The move fulfilled the Mavs’ long-running search for a superstar to pair with perennial MVP candidate Luka Doncic, at least temporarily. The blockbuster deal is widely considered a massive risk for the Mavs because of Irving’s turbulent track record — which also includes requesting a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers and a series of off-court controversies with the Nets — and his contractual status.
“I don’t see any risk involved,” said Mavs general manager Nico Harrison, a former longtime Nike executive whose relationship with Irving dates to the guard’s high school days. “I’ve known Kyrie for a long time. I know his core. I know what kind of person he is. I think anybody that’s ever watched him play basketball knows the type of basketball player he is.
“So I don’t see the risk involved. I actually see the risk in not doing the deal.”
Irving cited his strong relationships with Harrison and coach Jason Kidd, his favorite player while growing up in New Jersey, as reasons he has instantly felt comfortable with the Mavericks.
Irving indicated it would be a disservice to the Mavs, who entered the night in fourth place in the Western Conference, to put any spotlight on his potential free agency instead of focusing solely on this season.
“I will say that from the start, from when I came here, there’s been nothing but a warm embrace, nothing but genuine love and nothing but a familiarity of relationships that I can really look to in times of questioning or confusion,” Irving said . “There’s just a positive note there. I’m just taking it one day at a time. That’s all I can do in this life. What the future holds is really only going to be dictated on what I do right now and how I prepare for those next steps, and that’s being the best teammate that I can be in that locker room and a great leader out here and within the Dallas community and within the NBA. I’ll just continue to be myself.
“So I’m just putting that to bed and just focusing on what we have ahead of us as a team.”