Los Angeles (AFP) – Eight-time NBA All-Star guard Kyrie Irving said on Thursday it was a relatively easy decision to re-sign with the Dallas Mavericks after briefly exploring free agency.
Irving, speaking to reporters for the first time since the final week of last season, said Dallas just felt like a good fit, despite the fact that he and teammate Luka Doncic didn’t immediately gel when he arrived via a mid-season trade from Brooklyn in February.
A free agent at the end of last season, he inked a three-year, $126 million deal with the Mavs in June.
“Had Dallas as number one on my list,” Irving said. “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 said his family backed the move, believing it would give him “peace of mind on the court and off the court.”
“I had already dealt with enough (the) past 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,” he said. “I just wanted to be myself.”
Irving, who won an NBA title with Cleveland in 2016, arrived in Dallas after four seasons in Brooklyn, where he missed dozens of games after refusing to be vaccinated for Covid-19 and was last season suspended after a social media post referencing a film that contained anti-Semitic themes.
In 20 games with the Mavs last season, Irving averaged 27 points, five rebounds and six assists while shooting 51% from the floor.
However, he and Slovenian star Doncic never emerged as a tight tandem threat. They both battled injuries as the Mavs faded late, the team going 5-11 in games in which they were in the lineup together.
Irving said he thought he and Doncic were “too passive” when playing together. Doncic said Wednesday he thought a full training camp and pre-season together would improve their chemistry.
“It takes time to build chemistry, especially on the court,” Doncic said. “We’ll have the whole training camp and pre-season, so I think it’s going to be way better.”