DALLAS — General manager Nico Harrison expressed optimism that the Dallas Mavericks would accomplish their top offseason priority of re-signing Kyrie Irving following the All-Star guard’s exit interview with the franchise.
“I think the things that he said along the way about how he feels here, how he feels appreciated, how he feels accepted and allowed to be himself — those are the things that he said kind of consistently,” Harrison said Tuesday, a day after meeting with Irving. “That’s what gives me the optimism that he wants to be here.”
The Mavericks traded for Irving in January with the understanding that Irving had no intention of discussing a contract extension, which would have been limited to two years. Irving is eligible to sign for as much as $272 million over five years with the Mavericks, who possess his Bird rights as he enters free agency, or approximately $202 million for four years with another franchise.
Irving, who informed reporters days after joining the Mavs that he would not answer questions regarding his free agency until the end of the season to avoid “unwarranted distractions,” was not made available to the media after Dallas’ season ended Sunday.
The Mavs remain confident that Irving and fellow All-Star guard Luka Doncic can form the core of a contender despite Dallas’ disappointing season. The Mavs went 7-18 after the Irving trade — including 5-11 when both All-Stars were in the lineup — to fall from fourth place in the Western Conference standings with two months remaining in the regular season to 11th and out of the play-in scenario.
“I think the two work together,” said Harrison, who declined to comment on the NBA investigation into the Mavs sitting their stars and other core players in the final two games, which positioned Dallas to likely keep the top-10-protected pick owed to the New York Knicks. “I think Luka and Kai work together.
“I think when we have that talented of a player — that talented of two players — I think they work together. I really think it’s the players around them … kind of knowing their role with having those two guys out on the floor at the same time. I think that’s the thing that we need to work on.”
Team sources told ESPN that concern exists within the organization about whether Doncic could request a trade in the summer of 2024 if significant progress isn’t made next season.
Doncic attempted to downplay that concern after Sunday’s finale.
“I’m happy here, so there is nothing to worry [about],” said Doncic, who just finished the first season of a five-year, $215 million maximum contract that includes a player option for the final season.
Said Harrison: “Well, I take his words for it.”
“He says he wants to be here,” Harrison continued. “He’s under contract, so I don’t go to sleep at night worried about, ‘Is Luka going to be a Maverick?’ Because he is a Maverick, and he’s under contract. Obviously, if that changes, then we’ll have to reevaluate it. But I think our job really to keep Luka happy, if you will, is surrounding him by the right players to help him win. And I think Luka’s a talent that deserves that.”
Mavs governor Mark Cuban, coach Jason Kidd and Harrison have all stated that Irving, who averaged 27.0 points and 6.0 assists in the 20 games he played for Dallas, remains a large part of the franchise’s plans for the future. That did not waver despite the Mavs’ struggles after the trade.
“We weren’t playing very well pretty much all year,” Harrison said. “We’ve been consistently inconsistent. I didn’t know if this would be like a magic pill. I don’t think I had like any visions of that, but I figured it couldn’t be worse than what it was. And also, I also looked at it as a long-term play, not a short-term play. Getting this trade wasn’t for the three months.”