LOS ANGELES – After he talked openly about his past and championship dreams of the future, new Maverick Kyrie Irving addressed the subject of building chemistry with Luka Dončić.
His simple message: Don’t worry about it.
Great players usually have a pretty good chance of meshing well with other great players. And that’s the way Irving sees.
““It’s still a wait and see, but for me, am I worried about us coexisting, finding cohesion? No,” Irving said after his first practice session with his new team at USC.
“I’ve played with some of the greats of all time. This is going to be my first time seeing one of those ‘baaad’ Europeans come over and really dominate up close and have an opportunity to do it at a pace that I don’t think has ever been seen before other than like Larry Bird, somebody else who just plays at their own pace, scores a bunch of points and constantly is in the MVP conversation every year because he commands that much attention.
“As much as I can lead alongside him, I’m willing to do. But there’s no pressure here. Nothing’s forced. I just want to enjoy his talent and my teammates’ talent and work toward a championship.”
Ah, yes, the C-word.
The Mavericks fully believe the trade for Irving is a move that moves the needle closer to making them legitimate title contenders. Irving won one with LeBron James in Cleveland. He has come up short playing alongside Jayson Tatum in Boston and, most recently, Kevin Durant and James Harden in Brooklyn.
Irving knows it will take a lot of work, a lot of sacrifice and a little luck to reach the promised land in Dallas. But he believes it’s realistic with a tripod of leaders on the court in himself, Luka and coach Jason Kidd.
“I think anything’s realistic if you’re disciplined and focused and you’re consistent and you prepare,” Irving, 30, said. “How we approach every single game is going to be led by J-Kidd. I’m just following suit, following other coaches, following my teammates and when I’m needed to play other roles, just do that.
“I feel like some of the best teams in the league are the most selfless. They know the time to score. They have high IQ. They knock down open shots. They read the game very well.”
Irving just described Luka’s game perfectly. And while there will almost certainly be bumps in the road, building for deep playoff runs is something this team now can do more than just dream about.
“You’re going to be tested,” Irving said. “Any championship run is going to challenge you all across the board. Nothing is going to be perfect. So I don’t expect it.
“So the expectation of course is to work toward a championship. Me saying here that we’re going to win a championship is not going to do anything. It’s just words. I’d rather show you out there and let the chips stay where they are.”
Kidd has the responsibility of creating the environment in which Dončić and Irving can thrive.
But Kidd left no doubt that certain things will not change when it comes to the dynamics of the Mavericks.
“There’s always a point where someone’s going to tiptoe in,” Kidd said. “When you look at Ky, he’s 30. He’s a veteran. He understands what he has to do. This isn’t two 23-year-olds trying to see who’s the alpha.
“We understand this is Luka’s team. And it will be Luka’s team. For him, it’s just a matter of playing behind the ball that he did last year. Everyone’s making a big thing about how much he dominated the ball – we didn’t have a lot of other options. That’s not a bad thing, that’s just the way the roster was set. But now we’ve improved the roster where someone else can handle the ball.”
Irving will be a free agent at the end of this season. He said Tuesday there is no rush to get an extension or a new deal done. He’d rather not be distracted from the immediate task of making the most of this season when the Western Conference seems to be wide-open.
He just wants to be all-in with what the Mavericks are trying to accomplish.
“I’m super-excited,” he said. “I really feel wanted. I know they had to give up some pieces for me to get here. I don’t take that for granted. Shoutout to Mr. (Mark) Cuban and the whole front office and the Dallas organization. I’ve been here for about 48 hours and it’s been nothing but a warm embrace and nothing but genuine love.”
Now, Irving said, he’s itching to push himself and this team a little higher.
“With Nico (Harrison, Mavericks’ GM) and Jason, I know they’re going to push me beyond where I think I am right now,” Irving said. “And that’s the type of mentorship and guidance I need at this point in my life.
“I’m not a kid with an NBA dream anymore. I don’t want to dream in this space. I want to win. And I want to win with guys that exemplify greatness every single day. And it’s not just on the court. It’s in their professionalism, it’s how they treat others, it’s in relationships and it’s genuine and authentic.”
The NBA has had a lot of instances when superstars have joined together in midseason. It’s not easy to make it work. Allen Iverson went to Denver to join Carmelo Anthony and things never clicked.
Charles Barkley went to Houston as Hakeem Olajuwon’s sidekick and the Rockets never made the NBA finals.
Talent generally rules in the NBA. But it doesn’t guarantee the ultimate success.
“It’s not easy to do,” Kidd said. “I thought what Spencer (Dinwiddie) and Davis (Bertans) did last year and putting JB (Jalen Brunson) in the starting lineup doesn’t happen all the time where it actually improved the team. We would like the same results, but we wouldn’t like to end in the Western Conference finals.
“But we’ll see. Ky said it best: Let’s just see how it goes. Let’s get some games under our belt. We understand what comes with this. There’s going to be good games, but there’s going to be games when we don’t score 130. Let’s have fun. We had fun last year. I want Ky to be Ky – go out there and play at the level we all know he can play.”
And letting Kidd do his job is part of the process.
“My job is to help,” he said. “And also push. You heard him (Irving) say he wants to be coached, so my job is to push him to be great.”
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