New era set to begin when Kyrie Irving, Mavs visit Clippers
The Kyrie Irving era with the Dallas Mavericks is set to take flight Wednesday, although the team’s full on-court vision will not be realized until the weekend at the earliest.
Officially acquired Monday in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets, Irving is expected to make his debut with the Mavericks in a game against the host Los Angeles Clippers. But his much-anticipated pairing with fellow star Luka Doncic will have to wait.
Doncic has been ruled out for a third consecutive game with a heel injury. His return is expected to come either on Friday or Saturday at Sacramento as the Mavericks are set to face the Kings in consecutive games.
Irving, who requested a trade out of Brooklyn last week, practiced with his new Dallas teammates Tuesday on the University of Southern California campus. Afterward, he touched on some reasons why he wanted a fresh start.
“I just know I want to be places where I’m celebrated and not just tolerated or just kind of dealt with in a way that doesn’t make me feel respected,” said Irving, who missed time with the Nets over the past two seasons for his refusal to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus and a suspension for his social-media promotion of a movie with anti-Semitic themes.
“There were times throughout this process when I was in Brooklyn where I felt very disrespected and my talent — 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, so I just wanted to change that narrative, write my own story.”
His desire for ultimate respect will be tested early. Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd wasted no time saying that the Mavericks will continue to be Doncic’s team to lead.
“This isn’t two 23-year-olds trying to see who will be the alpha,” Kidd said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “This is Luka’s team. It will be Luka’s team.”
Irving’s first game with the Mavericks will provide him the opportunity to make an immediate statement. The Mavs enter the day in sixth place in the Western Conference, one game behind the fourth-place Clippers.
Los Angeles will be wrapping up the season series between the teams after winning two of the first three games against the Mavericks. Their most recent meeting was a 112-98 Clippers victory on Jan. 22 in Dallas.
The Clippers return home from a 4-2 road swing through the Eastern Conference that closed with a 124-116 victory Monday against Irving’s old team, the Nets.
With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George healthy and back on the court together again, the Clippers are 8-2 since Jan. 20, with nine of those 10 games on the road.
Los Angeles has made its push up the standings by essentially going to an eight-man rotation as of late, although the team had nine players see at least 15 minutes of action Monday as George scored 29 points and Leonard added 24.
The Clippers reportedly made a push to add Irving themselves, before the Mavs won out.
“We’ve come to a point where we’ve finally got Kawhi and PG healthy and it was time to start winning some games,” Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said. “We went to a little playoff mode for just a stretch to make sure we can accumulate some wins and go from there. We have to win and solidify a top-six seed and that’s our main goal. The guys understand that.”
–Field Level Media