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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Nets trading Kyrie Irving to Dallas Mavericks after his request to leave


Guard Kyrie Irving has been a Net for the past four seasons.


By TANIA GANGULI


Kyrie Irving is on his way out of New York after 3 1/2 scandal-filled years in which the Brooklyn Nets fell way short of realizing their aspirations of seriously contending for an NBA championship.


The Nets reached an agreement Sunday to trade Irving to the Dallas Mavericks, according to three people familiar with the situation. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the trade had not yet been announced and they were not authorized to speak publicly about it.


The Nets were expected to receive Spencer Dinwiddie, 29, a guard who played five seasons with the Nets from 2016-21; forward Dorian-Finney Smith, 29, a first-round pick in 2016; and multiple second-round picks, two of the people said. The Mavericks will also receive veteran forward Markieff Morris from the Nets, one of the people said.


The deal could help the Mavericks (28-26) rise enough in the tightly contested Western Conference to contend for a championship this season.


Irving, a dynamic point guard with a history of social activism, has also embraced controversy and conspiracy. He is in the final year of his contract with the Nets and had been hoping to work out a contract extension. With little progress on a deal, he asked the Nets to trade him last week, according to a person familiar with Irving’s request who was not authorized to speak publicly about it.


On Jan. 26, Shetellia Riley Irving, his agent and stepmother, made public that his contract negotiations were not progressing.


“I have reached out to the Nets regarding this,” she told Bleacher Report in January. “We have had no significant conversations to date. The desire is to make Brooklyn home, with the right type of extension, which means the ball is in the Nets’ court to communicate now if their desire is the same.”


Irving and star forward Kevin Durant signed with the Nets as free agents in 2019, hoping their talent could help lead the Nets to an NBA championship. But Irving’s time with the Nets was tumultuous. He played in only 143 of the Nets’ 278 regular-season games while on their roster.


When the two players signed with the Nets, Durant was still recovering from rupturing an Achilles tendon in the 2019 NBA Finals with Golden State. Durant then missed the entire 2019-20 season. After having an operation on his right shoulder, Irving missed the end of that season, which the NBA ended in a so-called bubble on the Walt Disney World campus in Florida because of the coronavirus pandemic.


The Nets lost a first-round series in the 2020 playoffs. In 2021, they lost an Eastern Conference semifinal series to the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks in seven games.


Last season, Irving played in only 29 of the Nets’ 82 games because he would not get vaccinated against the coronavirus despite New York City’s vaccine requirement for private sector employees. The Nets initially said they would not allow Irving to play for them at all while he was ineligible for home games. But in January 2021, they changed course and allowed him to join the team on the road.


Irving’s stance irritated a teammate, star guard James Harden, who joked that he would vaccinate Irving himself, but then asked for a trade. Harden was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in February 2022 for Ben Simmons, who did not play for the rest of that season because of his mental and physical health.


The Nets were swept by the Boston Celtics, the eventual conference champions, in the first round of the 2022 playoffs.


After that series, Irving and Durant flirted with leaving the organization. Irving was given the opportunity to find a trade partner, but ultimately he opted into the final year of his contract. Last June, Durant asked for a trade, but the Nets did not find a trade they thought suited them.


Despite having Simmons, Durant and Irving all available for the start of this season, the Nets lost six of their first eight games.


During that time, Irving posted a link to an antisemitic film on his social media accounts. A reporter from Rolling Stone wrote that the film’s message centered on antisemitic tropes, and Irving was in trouble again. Irving faced backlash from Jewish leaders and Nets owner Joe Tsai, who said on Twitter that he was disappointed Irving had linked to the movie and wanted to sit down with him so that he understood the hurt he had caused.


In a news conference in late October, Irving defended posting the film. The Nets kept Irving away from reporters for the next two games, and on Nov. 2 he released a statement with the Anti-Defamation League saying he would donate $500,000 to anti-hate causes.


But the next day, Irving addressed reporters after a practice and refused to apologize for posting the film or to disavow antisemitism.


The Nets suspended Irving later that day and said the suspension would last at least five games. He missed eight games and was allowed to return to the team after he apologized. Around that time, on Nov. 1, the Nets fired Steve Nash, who had been their head coach since September 2020, and hired Jacque Vaughn, who had been Nash’s assistant.


When Irving has played, he has shown his value on the court. He has averaged 27.2 points per game since his return, and the Nets have gone 22-10 with him in the lineup since then. The Nets (32-20) are fourth in the Eastern Conference. Durant has missed the Nets’ past 12 games with a knee injury. The Nets have gone 5-7 without him.


On Saturday, a day after Irving requested the trade, the Nets sat Irving with what they said was a calf injury. Still, the Nets notched a thrilling 125-123 victory over the Washington Wizards with 44 points from a reserve player, Cam Thomas.


The Athletic was first to report Irving’s agreement with Dallas on Sunday. He is leaving one superstar in Durant to join another in the Mavericks’ Luka Doncic. A 6-foot-7 guard, Doncic, 23, has been named an NBA All-Star four times and was the league’s rookie of the year in 2019.


Dallas has won four of its last 11 games. The Mavericks are in sixth place in the Western Conference, but had only one fewer win than the third-place Sacramento Kings entering Sunday.

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