USA TODAY Sports Weekly

Mavs will learn if play outweighs baggage

- Jeff Zillgitt USA TODAY

Is Kyrie Irving worth it? The “it” could be trouble, chaos, spectacula­r play or some fascinatin­g and puzzling combinatio­n of the three.

The Dallas Mavericks decided yes this week.

Irving requested a trade two days earlier, and multiple teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns, had varying levels of interest.

By Feb. 5, Irving was on his way to the Mavericks, who gave up Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, a firstround pick and two second-round picks for the talented guard.

Whatever hesitation existed around the league in acquiring Irving – and there was plenty of it – it was rendered meaningles­s ahead of the 3 p.m. ET Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline.

What other offers may have been made for Irving haven’t emerged, but there was concern about offering a significant package of players and future draft picks without some kind of assurance that Irving will remain with the team that acquired him.

Given that the Mavericks gave up just one first-round pick, Lakers fans who wanted the team to acquire Irving to put alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis aren’t happy Irving isn’t in purple and gold.

Dallas gambled. Let’s see if it pays off. The Mavericks can sign Irving to an extension this season, but if they don’t, Irving can become a free agent after this season and sign with any team – perhaps even the Lakers.

Irving has been an enigma throughout his career, whether with Cleveland, Boston or Brooklyn. After three consecutiv­e trips to the Finals with the Cavaliers, he wanted out.

After telling Boston fans he would return, he left for Brooklyn. And in his time in Brooklyn, much focus has been on offthe-court issues – his refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine sidelining him for several games and his promotion earlier this season of an anti-Semitic film for which he initially refused to apologize, resulting in a suspension.

In three-plus seasons with Brooklyn, he played 143 of a possible 278 games.

But in those games he played, it’s obvious why teams want Irving.

He is brilliant on the court, one of the most gifted scorers and shotmakers in the league.

There aren’t many players who are as entertaini­ng and captivatin­g as Irving when he has the ball in his hands.

Irving averages 27.1 points, 5.3 assists and 5.1 rebounds and shoots 48.6% from the field, 37.4% on 3-pointers and 88.3% from the foul line this season. It seemed the Nets were headed places with Irving and Kevin Durant, but once Irving and the Nets failed to reach an extension, Irving put in his request ahead of the deadline.

He’s an eight-time All-Star, including this season, a three-time All-NBA selection, a three-time NBA finalist and a member of the Cavaliers’ 2015-16 championsh­ip team, making one of the biggest shots in franchise history with a 3-pointer giving Cleveland a 92-89 lead with 53 seconds left in Game 7. It was the gamewinnin­g shot against Golden State.

It’s hard in a bottom-line business of winning to pass on a player like Irving, even with hesitation. He’s that good.

The Mavs have searched for another star to pair with MVP-caliber superstar Luka Doncic for a couple of seasons. They haven’t found the right player to relieve some of Doncic’s offensive responsibi­lities.

Irving can do that. If you double-team Doncic, Irving will exploit a defense with his creative offense.

If you leave Doncic one-on-one, he can score easily. Doncic averages a career-high 33.4 points (second best in the league) and shoots 50.4% from the field and is one of the league’s biggest stars now and for the future.

Since winning the title in 2011, Dallas owner Mark Cuban has tried to put together another championsh­ip-caliber team. The Mavs lost to Golden State in five games in last season’s conference finals, and in a deep Western Conference, the Mavs think they are close to title contention.

Dallas general manager Nico Harrison has a relationsh­ip with Irving from their days together at Nike – Harrison repping players and Irving with an apparel deal – and the Mavs believe Harrison along with coach Jason Kidd, one of the game’s great point guards, can be the team for Irving.

Is Irving worth it? We’re about to find out.*

 ?? BILL STREICHER/USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Kyrie Irving will play for his fourth NBA team – the Mavericks – after the Nets traded him Feb. 5.
BILL STREICHER/USA TODAY SPORTS Kyrie Irving will play for his fourth NBA team – the Mavericks – after the Nets traded him Feb. 5.
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