(Photo credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)
Calling himself and Luka Doncic "killers on the court," Kyrie Irving expressed gratitude over returning to the Mavericks following Dallas' practice on Thursday.
Irving was traded from the Brooklyn Nets to the Mavericks last season on an expiring contract. He chose to re-sign with the Mavs on a three-year contract worth up to $126 million.
"It wasn't too difficult of a process," Irving said in his first comments to reporters this offseason. "Had Dallas as No. 1 on my list. Obviously I looked elsewhere -- salary cap opportunities, where I could fit in with other guys around the league -- but there just wasn't much space. And me being 31 now, I had to have a different vantage point, and I felt like I could not just settle here but be happy to come back here and be welcomed back with a warm embrace."
Irving played 20 games for Dallas last season and averaged 27.0 points, 6.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game. But the Mavericks went just 5-11 when Irving and Doncic both played, and their pursuit of a playoff berth collapsed.
Irving said his family was supportive of staying in Texas in the long-term.
"I mean, even when I got traded here midseason, a lot of my family was excited and they were just looking forward to me having a peace of mind just on the court and off the court," Irving said. "I had already dealt with enough last season or the past two seasons, so they knew that I just wanted a lot of that off my back and off my shoulders of feeling like I had to be Superman or I had to be perfect. I just wanted to be myself. And then going on the last few years, just figuring myself out. So I think this is the best place to do it and continue to mature and grow as a man."
Irving played in 60 games for Brooklyn and Dallas in 2022-23 and 29 games for the Nets in 2021-22, as he protested the NBA's COVID-19 vaccination regulations at the time.
Some of the money in Irving's new contract is incentive-based: $1 million each season if he plays at least 65 games, and another $1 million per season if the Mavericks win 50 or more games and Irving plays at least 58 games. The final season of his contract also includes a player option.
"I wanted everything that was structured in my contract incentive-wise to be based on production and that was wins and how many games I'm playing," Irving said. "I hear all the noise. So I just wanted to make sure that I had some friendly terms, but also some realistic expectations for myself going into the season, looking to just play as many games as possible."
Doncic, who spoke with the media Wednesday, is relishing having a full training camp with his superstar teammate.
"He came in the middle of the season last year, and we didn't have much time," Doncic said. "We went straight to playing games. It takes time to do chemistry, especially on the court, so we didn't have the whole training camp and then, I mean, the preseason. too. So I think it's going to be way better."
For his part, Irving believed he and Doncic were "being too passive" with each other.
"We're both killers on the court, everybody knows it. We want to win. So we just have to continue to have that consistent mentality together and lead the team as best we can alongside other guys that have experience in this league or young guys that we have to coach even more. So it's all been a learning experience. It was so quick last year and it was so much pressure on us to win now, win big, and 'It's Luka and Kyrie, why can't you guys win games?' So we were answering a lot of questions that, honestly, I don't think we were ready for."
--Field Level Media