The blockbuster deal with Brooklyn sending the mercurial Irving to the Mavericks became official Monday, two days before what could be his Dallas debut at the LA Clippers.
It’s unknown if Doncic will be available against the Clippers. He wasn’t with the Mavs at the start of a five-game trip out West after bruising his right heel in the final home game before the trip. He was ruled out of the second game on the trip at Utah on Monday night.
Whenever the All-Stars do get on the court together, Doncic and Irving instantly will become one of the NBA’s top duos in a tightly packed Western Conference.
Doncic is in a dead heat for the scoring lead with fellow MVP candidate Joel Embiid of Philadelphia, and is the only one of the seven current 30-point scorers also averaging at least eight rebounds and eight assists per game. Irving is averaging 27.1 points, 5.3 assists and 5.1 rebounds.
The West has several title-contending teams beyond defending champion Golden State, which eliminated the Mavs in the conference finals last season.
Dallas is in a group of nine teams that started the day within one loss of each other. That group encompasses teams currently fourth, the final spot with home-court advantage in the first round, through 12th, two positions out of the postseason play-in tournament.
Jalen Brunson was crucial to Dallas’ playoff run alongside Doncic last season but decided he wanted his own starting role as a point guard and left for the New York Knicks in free agency. While the Mavericks traded for a solid No. 2 scorer in Christian Wood in the offseason, they haven’t been able to win without Doncic this season.
Dallas was 0-7 without Doncic going into the game against the Jazz, when Wood was expected to return after missing eight games with a fractured left thumb.
The Mavericks never really had a chance to see if the roster they built after Brunson’s departure was good enough for another deep postseason run. Injuries sidelined defensive specialists Finney-Smith and Josh Green for a few weeks, and rim protector Maxi Kleber joined them there after tearing a hamstring. Kleber could be near a return.
A year ago, the Mavericks were right around .500 when their surge started just as the calendar turned to 2022. The arrival of 2023 hasn’t had the same effect — the high point so far is six games over .500 — but the Mavs hope the arrival of Irving will.
Dallas made the bold move to pair Doncic with Irving after the Nets’ attempt to do the same with Irving and Kevin Durant never had much chance to click in three-plus seasons.
The Nets now replace Irving with Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith with the hopes to keep their title window this season open. Brooklyn is currently the No. 4 seed in the East but has struggled since Durant went down with an MCL sprain. He is expected to return just prior to or after the mid-February All-Star break.
Coach Jacque Vaughn said Durant was examined Monday and the Nets will have an update on his status on Tuesday.
Vaughn also was asked if he thinks any type of instability within the organization will impact Durant’s desire to stay in Brooklyn.
“At the end of the day, Kevin wants to win,” Vaughn said. “And that’s always been our goal. He wants to win at shootaround. He wants to win any game of the week, that’s why he loves to play, that’s why he wants to play 82 games. That will be our holy grail. We will continue to try and put a group out that wins. Until there’s something for me to be concerned about, then I’ll carry on business as usual.”
Dinwiddie will be making a return to Brooklyn, where he enjoyed some of the best seasons of his career over a five-year stretch from 2017 to 2021.
“We’re excited to add Spencer and Dorian to our roster, while also securing draft compensation that will increase our flexibility moving forward,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement Monday. “Spencer is a dynamic, multi-talented guard who we are very familiar with from his previous stint in Brooklyn. Dorian is an experienced wing who brings perimeter shooting and defensive versatility to our group. Together, the two players will fit seamlessly with our roster and provide the team with proven veteran talent.”
The trade came two days after Irving told the Nets he wanted out by Thursday’s league deadline, after talks about a contract beyond this season didn’t go to his liking.
For now, Irving is set to become a free agent after the season. But future negotiations will involve Dallas general manager Nico Harrison, who was a Nike executive before taking over the Mavericks in 2021.
Irving had a relationship with Nike for the entirety of his NBA career until earlier this season, when the sneaker giant dropped him and canceled the planned release of his next signature shoe just before it dropped. It was part of the massive fallout from Irving posting a link to an antisemitic film on his Twitter account.
That was one of many drama-filled sagas that marked Irving’s time with the Nets. He wouldn’t get vaccinated against COVID-19 and, because of New York City workplace rules, had to miss most of Brooklyn’s home games last season. He also took two leaves of absence during the 2020-21 season.
He has also expressed no shortage of controversial opinions during his career — including repeated questioning whether the Earth was round before eventually apologizing to science teachers.
“Thank you NetsWorld fans and supporters for the Love on and off the court,” Irving tweeted early Monday morning. “I will forever be grateful I got to live out my dream I had as a Kid with y’all. It will always be Love from me and my family.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.