Did the Nets trade Kyrie Irving to Dallas out of spite? That seems to be the case with NBA insider Marc Stein reporting that one of owner Joe Tsai’s “presumed objectives” was trading him to a team other than the Lakers, who were seen as his “preferred destination.” If true, it would signal an almost unprecedented degree of pettiness, with Tsai actively playing defense against Kyrie, denying him the opportunity to reunite with former teammate LeBron James in Los Angeles.
What’s staggering is that the Nets apparently turned down better offers from both the Lakers and Suns, ultimately settling on a return package that included Spencer Dinwiddie (now in his second stint with Brooklyn), Dorian Finney-Smith and three draft picks (two seconds and an unprotected first). Phoenix had offered Chris Paul, Jae Crowder and “unspecified picks” while Los Angeles was willing to part with two firsts and Russell Westbrook’s expiring contract, which the Nets countered by asking for additional pick swaps along with promising up-and-comers Max Christie and Austin Reaves. The Clippers were in similar pursuit of Irving, with Brooklyn declining their offer of Terance Mann, Luke Kennard, a first-rounder and two pick swaps, according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor.
While Stein didn’t specify the source of Tsai’s resentment, it likely stems from Irving’s stubborn refusal to get the COVID vaccine (which prevented him from playing most of last season) coupled with the disgruntled guard’s tweet promoting a documentary espousing dangerous misinformation and antisemitism. The latter controversy prompted an eight-game suspension, tarnishing Irving’s public image while costing him his endorsement with Nike.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had been critical of Irving at the time, dismissing his erratic behavior as “crazy” and “not acceptable.” However, when an opportunity presented itself, Cuban, a born entrepreneur with a keen business sense, jumped, procuring a much-needed backcourt complement for scoring prodigy Luka Doncic. Irving could very well be a rental with the next few months determining whether he factors into Dallas' long-term plans or departs in free agency this summer.
Irving was recently selected as an Eastern Conference All-Star, though it’s likely he ends up replacing Steph Curry on the Western Conference squad following his recent injury. Sunday’s blockbuster got the ball rolling on what was anticipated to be a relatively uneventful deadline with John Collins, OG Anunoby, Zach LaVine, Saddiq Bey and Jakob Poeltl headlining this year’s crop of rumored trade candidates.
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