Irving says Dallas as his final home despite option to leave

SunStar Basketball
SunStar Basketball

DALLAS (AP) — Kyrie Irving is a year away from having the option to leave the Dallas Mavericks, and at that point would be closing in on his longest stint anywhere since asking out of Cleveland, where he was drafted, in 2017.

Yet the mercurial guard sounded as if Dallas could be his basketball home well beyond 2025 after losing the NBA Finals in five games to the Boston Celtics in his first full season with co-star Luka Doncic.

“I see an opportunity for us to really build our future in a positive manner where this is almost like a regular thing for us, and we’re competing for championships,” Irving said after Dallas’ 106-88 loss in Game 5.

Irving jilted Boston in free agency in 2019 and has been steadfastly booed by Celtics fans since then. His 3 1/2 seasons in Brooklyn were filled with mostly self-inflicted drama, to the point that he finally asked for a trade after doing the same to break away from LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

When the Mavs acquired the eight-time All-Star at the deadline last year, Irving’s reputation around the league was in tatters. Things have changed in 16 months.

“From a spiritual standpoint, I think I enjoyed this journey more than any other season, just because of the redemption arc and being able to learn as much as I did about myself and my teammates and the organization and the people that I’m around,” Irving said. “It’s a lot of good people here, so it makes coming to work a lot of fun.”

Doncic’s player option is a year after Irving’s, following the 2025-26 season. And every other rotation player in the playoffs except for guard Derrick Jones Jr. is under contract next season.

The Mavericks don’t have much room to maneuver under the salary cap, but they will have the nagging question of whether a more dangerous third scoring option is the missing piece.

The 25-year-old Doncic is entering his prime in a difficult Western Conference, with two trips at least to the West finals in the past three seasons.

But Dallas was a surprise team both times, and couldn’t stick around past five games. The next level would be getting this far without being a surprise, perhaps as the favorite to win the title.

Such progress might be required to keep Irving and Doncic together beyond 2025-26, or to keep Doncic in Dallas as long as retired star Dirk Nowitzki stayed — a record 21 seasons with the same franchise.

“When you have one of the best players in the world,” coach Jason Kidd said, “you should be always fighting for a championship.” / AP

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