When Kyrie Irving demanded a trade from the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, a league-altering domino fell and shook the market, sending shockwaves across the league and starting an arms race. That could cause many league teams to look for that one game-changing piece that could put them at the top of the title contenders against each other.
Once Irving’s trade request became known, the Nets had a few serious suitors, including the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, and Los Angeles Clippers. After receiving a string of offers, from those teams and others, the Nets struck a deal with the Mavericks on Sunday, sending Irving to Dallas for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney Smith, a first-round pick in 2029 and two second-round picks in 2027 and 2029, according to to the league’s sources, who like all sources in this story have been granted anonymity so they can speak freely.
After a tumultuous opening month for the NBA season that included an eight-game suspension from the Nets for promoting an anti-Semitic documentary, Irving re-emerged as the league’s difference maker: an NBA All-Star for the eighth game. time with season averages of 27.1 points, 5.3 assists, and 5.1 rebounds in 40 games to date.
Irving’s trade request has stunned the NBA, as he and Kevin Durant have been in the midst of their best period as a duo since joining Brooklyn in 2019 and the Nets have emerged as a contender in the Eastern Conference. But Irving asked due to underlying issues with the franchise, according to league sources the athlete That there are irreconcilable differences that made him head towards separation, regardless of what the Nets presented in contract extension talks over the past week.
For the Mavericks, the move — sealed by owner Mark Cuban and general manager Neko Harrison as well as coach Jason Kidd — pairs eight-time superstar Irving with MVP candidate Luka Doncic. Dallas coveted elite talent to pair with Dončić, and team sources say they believed their organization’s culture and environment would be a perfect fit for Irving.
The Nets eventually landed the Mavericks’ final bid that was the best for them out of the rest, but while Irving’s trade sweepstakes may seem like a weekend blur, it actually started eight months ago.
The Lakers and Irving seemed to be the most obvious matchup, as last summer Irving wanted to reunite with fellow former Cleveland Cavaliers champion LeBron James and has a particular interest in playing in the Lakers backcourt that would allow him to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Kobe. Bryant. Lakers officials became aware of Irving’s desire to join the franchise last summer, and he quickly emerged as a popular freshman at the time.
In the days after Irving and the Nets deadlocked in contract-extension negotiations last June, the Lakers requested and received permission from Brooklyn to speak to Irving’s representatives, according to league sources. Those around Irving think this could be the first step towards a possible trading scenario between the two teams. Lakers and Vice President of Basketball Operations Rob Pelinka were given approval to speak to Irving’s agent, Stelia Riley Irving; Sources, however, said Riley Irving has not heard from any member of the Lakers front office.
Those sources added that the Nets were open to hearing offers across the league for Irving at that point, but the Lakers were told they did not have a suitable deal with Russell Westbrook’s $47 million contract. This meant the Lakers would only deal with Irving if he turned down the $37 million player option and signed a deal to exclude the mediocrity, but they ultimately didn’t think he would.
On June 27, Irving decided to sign up for the last year of his contract with the Nets to return to the franchise. The Lakers engaged the Nets back in early July regarding a package about draft compensation, but Brooklyn made it clear it wasn’t open to transferring Irving. The two teams met again during the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, without any drag or action on the Nets’ stand.
Then on October 27, Irving posted a link to a movie containing anti-Semitic material, which led to serious questions about his future in the NBA. After meeting with the media on October 29 and November 3 and failing to offer an unequivocal apology for the film’s condemnation, the Nets suspended it. He met with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on November 8, and owner Joe Tsai gave Irving a list of six things he needed to complete before returning to the court.
During this process, the Nets among opposing teams were seen as open to trading for Irving. The Lakers again expressed interest, sources said, but teams across the league were reluctant to make offers for a player who was at the center of such controversy.
After a return-to-play process that included meeting Jewish community leaders, donations, and meeting the Nets and league demands, Irving was cleared to return on November 20 against the Memphis Grizzlies. Going 7-9 in the game, he was struggling to rally support for Durant and needed Irving to consistently deliver the court. The Nets went on to win 20 of their 24 games and were in contention for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, but lost Durant to a sprained MCL on January 8 in Miami. They’ve gone 5-7 since then.
Irving’s request on Friday gave the Lakers another chance to capitalize. This time, unlike in the off-season and in November, the Lakers have built a strong belief that a move might happen to take them on top this season. Although Irving didn’t give the networks a list of favorite destinations, he thinks he would have welcomed a deal in Los Angeles. With LeBron James playing at the elite level at the age of 38 and Anthony Davis healthy and finding his dominant form again, the Lakers had a chance to take on Irving.
The Lakers have offered the Nets a package of Westbrook and two first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 for Irving in the past two days, said sources familiar with the discussions — who told the Nets that in order to bid for the lottery for Irving they would require all of their young players like Austin Reeves and Max Christie and selection swaps plus Westbrook and first-round selectors.
The Nets eventually moved on from a potential Lakers framework to pick Dallas.
With new owner Matt Ishpia set to take charge of The Sun this coming week, Phoenix has emerged as an interesting organization to watch before the February 9th deadline. The Suns want to continue building around All-NBA star Devin Booker, quarterbacks Deandre Ayton, and forwards Michal Bridges and Cam Johnson. However, Chris Paul’s future is uncertain after this season as Paul enjoys a partial guarantee of half his salary for next season.
The Suns are known as a potential suitor for Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, but once Irving became available, Phoenix shifted its focus to the Irving market.
Sources said Phoenix put on an offer about Paul and Jay Crowder and one first-round pick. The offer was made within the first 18 hours of Irving’s trade request, and it’s believed that three first-round draft picks could have made a deal, multiple league sources said. However, the Suns never added these picks and failed to make a better offer, and began to lose interest in trading Irving over time.
The Suns are expected to be incredibly active over the next several days adding him to the roster, with Ishbia expected to be a resourceful and open-minded team owner.
In the end, it was the Mavericks who stood firm with the level of players the Nets wanted in a potential trade—a key guard in Dinwiddie who showed the ability to be the first or second pick on any given night, do-it-all utility player in Finney-Smith and draft compensation. The Nets now have three first-rounders to use via trade, as well as several players who could attract interest across the league. Rival executives expect Brooklyn to scout the market for deals to surround Durant with more talent.
Irving is now a maverick, with a fresh, clean record and an organization ready to embrace him. His ability to connect with Dončić on and off the field will be critical to Dallas, but there is confidence in both the desire to win and to play alongside the individuals guiding the organization in Cuba, Mavericks CEO Cynthia Marshall, Harrison, and Kidd.
This desire to win now in Dallas has never been more evident than in winning the Kyrie race.
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(Photo by Luka Donjic and Kyrie Irving: Jesse D. Garrapant/NBAE via Getty Images)