How Kyrie Irving found his voice, changing the narrative in Dallas

When the Dallas Mavericks acquired Kyrie Irving, the blockbuster trade was viewed as a high-risk, high-reward deal. Irving was in the final year of his contract with the Brooklyn Nets and was in discussions for a long-term extension. When those conversations reached a point of no return, Irving asked to be traded. The Nets honored the trade request and agreed on a deal to send Irving to the Mavericks, ahead of the trade deadline.

The Mavs were desperately in need of a co-star next to the 24-year-old phenom Luka Dončić. Irving is an eight-time All-Star, a three-time All-NBA selection who helped Cleveland Cavaliers to their lone NBA Championship in 2016. Irving was selected as a starter for the 2023 NBA All-Star Game and he has been an All-Star starter in each of the last five All-Star games in which he has played (2017-19, 2021 and 2023).

Irving held career averages of 23.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 34.2 minutes in 651 games (all starts) with Cleveland, Boston and Brooklyn.

In 12 games with Dallas, Irving has averaged 28.4 points, 6.6 assists and 5.2 rebounds. He has held 50/40/90 shooting splits with 52.1% (122-234) from the floor, 42.7% (41-96) from 3-point range and 94.9% (56-59) from the foul line with the Mavericks.

“The first piece of advice they gave me, which is probably the best advice is just be myself.” Kyrie Irving said to media during his introduction presser in Dallas on the advice he received from Nico Harrison and Jason Kidd.

Over the past six weeks, Irving has been a positive locker room presence and has shown his leadership with the Mavericks. From the Mavs’ players and front office praising him as a teammate to Irving giving donations voluntarily to people in need, these moments aren’t often seen. From smiling and laughing with his new teammates to blowing kisses to his children court side, these moments aren’t shown from national media.

Irving has been portrayed in a way that represents a locker room cancer. When in reality, you see a man who is misunderstood, loves to hoop and just wants happiness for his family and people in need.

Irving received a standing ovation inside the American Airlines Center during his first time walking out to warmups. Now, fans in the arena rise to their feet during fourth quarters when Irving goes on a personal run of making challenging shots. You feel the energy around him and it’s something to be experienced in person.

“I’m excited to bring my game to Dallas and excite those fans, I don’t think they’ve ever seen anything like me before so I’m excited.” Kyrie Irving expressed his excitement ahead of playing in Dallas with the home team for the first time.

Leadership on the Court

Irving has been the co-star and leader the Mavericks needed next to Dončić in Dallas.

The calm nature from Irving is a much-needed balance to Dončić’s expressive energy throughout games. Irving’s championship experience is something Dončić respects and compliments. Irving’s ability to make shots and plays in the final minutes of games eases the pressure off the offense from being solely dependent upon Dončić. The knowledge and dialogue Irving shares with Dončić are teachable moments that will only help the young superstar and team get better moving forward. The ability to play on and off the ball makes Irving valuable next to Dončić, as the young guard hasn’t played off the ball since his rookie year in the NBA.

“I really want to win here, really put a lot of pressure on myself, at times I think I need to scale it back a little bit… I just got to focus on being the best that I can be. I got to focus on showing up, not just for Luka, but for my teammates.” Kyrie Irving said in a post-game press conference.

Irving initially deferred to Dončić in the first few games together as he wanted to show his willingness to fit into the schematics of the team. Irving said he was figuring out Luka’s pace, especially in the first quarter and coming out of halftime. Irving has figured it out to by finding moments to be aggressive and learning his teammates tendencies, specifically in the fourth quarter.

Kyrie Irving averages 4.7 points in the first quarter, 6.1 points in the second quarter, 6.2 points in the third quarter and 10.9 points in the fourth quarter.

Watching Irving show leadership on the court to his teammates has been visible. He finds every moment within a game to give a teachable moment but also learn from his teammates at the same time.

Leadership off the Court

Prior to Irving joining Dallas, you tend to get mixed feelings due to the way he is portrayed on television or in the news. It has created a toxic persona of Irving and it makes you eager to find out how close that is to reality but Mavericks’ players continue to compliment Irving as a teammate since his arrival.

“It’s great. You’re playing with a veteran superstar that has a ring. That’s been in big moments all throughout his career even back to high school. Just being able to be alongside with Luka but also with Kai, you gotta relish the moment and take advantage of the opportunity.” Tim Hardaway Jr. stated post-game after the win over the Clippers.

“He really is a competitor, he wants to win, I love it. Getting those offensive rebounds at the end of the game, on the floor 3 or 4 times. To have the name that he has, the career he’s had to be doing that stuff just motivates the rest of the team.” Josh Green mentioned post-game after the win over Kings.

“He’s been great since the trade… playing with Kai is so easy so it helps me a lot. So it’s way easier.” Luka Dončić said post-game on Kyrie Irving’s performance with the Mavs after the win over 76ers.

“He’s a very, very great teammate. He always has like positive spirits, uplifting words and all that. I’m very appreciative to play with him… great character guy.” Maxi Kleber said post-game after the win over the Lakers.

In a recent Twitch stream, Irving voiced his frustration with his portrayal by media and NBA fans.

“What’s Ky gonna do this summer? Does Ky like Dallas? What happened in Brooklyn? What happened in Boston? What happened in Cleveland? Why did you leave LeBron? … Why did you leave all of these people?’ … Me, you would think I’m the cancer in the locker room, as if basketball is an individual sport that one person is supposed to take blame for. It’s 15 guys on the team, and I’m the one cancer in the room? That’s what it’s portrayed as, that’s what you guys get that’s what they have fun doing. That’s why these older, bitter gentlemen and women keep my name in their mouths every day.”

Irving believes if you put good energy out, good energy comes back.

Irving has also made charitable actions and donations while being a member of the Mavericks.

“There’s so much going on in our world, I just try to do little acts of kindness every single day.” Kyrie Irving said in response to his donations.

At the Mavs Ball, an event that raised a record-breaking $1.85M for the Mavs Foundation, one of the items being auctioned was one State Fair of Texas visit with Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell. Irving pitched in a $25,000 donation for it.

Irving gave a $38,000 donation for the family of two people involved in a fatal car accident (Texas) at the beginning of the month.

Irving recently gave a $45,000 donation for kids in Ghana and Nigeria to help build an orphanage.

“It’s more of a family atmosphere that I’m really investing in: our village and our tribe. The messages really go a long way, just because I know it’s making an impact. The people running it have not been the best quality of people, so I do my best to read people’s foundational messages and their missions. It’s not just going to GoFundMe. I actually go to their websites and try to do research on who is on the GoFundMe pages because it’s a public platform. Anybody could get got at any time. I just do my best to do research, and be a beacon of light for humanity as best I can outside of the court.” Kyrie Irving shed light on the process for his charitable actions with GoFundMe requests for help.

Relationships in Dallas

The relationships Dallas in place have brought a sense of comfort for Irving in making the transition easier to a new city during the season.

“Dallas, they came calling. Mark rang my phone. Nico rang my phone and I’m grateful because I know they wanted me for my work ethic, my leadership abilities and also my consistency in what I bring to the team and I would just like to show that every day, that’s it.“ Kyrie Irving stated at 2023 All-Star weekend.

You start with Nico Harrison, GM of the Mavericks, who has mentioned his relationship with the 30-year-old superstar going all the way back to Irving’s AAU days. Harrison spent 19 years at Nike, where he last held the title of vice president of North America basketball operations. In his position, he had to know the top players of each class as a Nike executive and Irving was ranked third in the class of 2010. Harrison stated he didn’t see a risk at all with the acquisition and actually saw a risk in not making the trade for Irving.

“Honestly I think it’s easy. We get a few months and some playoff games to see how this thing works, once we see how it really works then okay, how do we make the future really good.” Nico Harrison on making Kyrie Irving’s relationship with the Dallas Mavericks long term.

Irving has voiced his appreciation of his long-lasting relationship with Harrison and the Mavs GM knowing his family very well. It was time for a power move by Nico Harrison at the trade deadline or offseason, to show his willingness to surround Dončić with top talent and catapult this franchise forward to compete with contenders in the NBA.

“The moves that we made were all towards the goal that we want to bring a championship here … So that’s what Mark (Cuban) brought me here to do and that’s what I am hopeful we are working towards so for me when you get opportunity to bring in another all-star player to go alongside Luka, who wouldn’t do that.” Nico Harrison addressed the media at Kyrie Irving and Markieff Morris introduction press conference.

Then you think about head coach Jason Kidd and the relationship he has with Kyrie Irving.

“We have one of the greatest guys to play the game leading us as a head coach [Jason Kidd]. We got some great coaches that really demand excellence out of themselves, and demand excellence out of us. It’s a great relationship that we have.” Kyrie Irving expressed his praise to Jason Kidd and Mavs coaching staff.

Kidd was Irving’s idol when he grew up in New Jersey and had the opportunity to watch Kidd lead the New Jersey Nets up close. Irving has talked about his admiration for the Hall of Fame point guard as his head coach. Now, Kidd has the opportunity to coach and watch Irving up close.

“It’s good. Knowing Kai and just understanding his skill set and the new atmosphere. He’s excited to be here… his leadership down the stretch of getting everyone organized… a lot of great stuff on this new journey with him. It’s going to be fun.” Jason Kidd stated on the addition of Kyrie Irving.

There has never been a bigger disconnect between how the national media portrays Irving and what is seen first-hand in the city of Dallas. The Mavs made the necessary type of risk for the high-reward payoff the organization is starting to see.

With 11 games remaining on the Mavericks schedule this season, each game is magnified with playoff implications and placement in the Western Conference.

Kyrie Irving will help lead the Dallas Mavericks to ensure the team is ready for it.

One thought on “How Kyrie Irving found his voice, changing the narrative in Dallas

  1. I so much love his addition to the team that even if we do nothing in the post season i will be happy for the next year if he stays.

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