Now they wait to see if the eight-time All-Star will re-sign in free agency, or be a failed two-month rental from a blockbuster deal with Brooklyn.
“I think I said this before, he’s at peace,” coach Jason Kidd said, striking an optimistic tone after Irving declined to meet with reporters for a season-ending interview. “He likes it here.”
The Mavs sat Irving and five other regulars in a meaningless, reserve-filled finale against San Antonio on Sunday, losing 138-117 to Sandro Mamukelashvili and the Spurs.
The Mavericks still had a shot at the final Western Conference play-in spot before blowing an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter of a loss to the Bulls.
The Spurs sat nine players, but they've been out of contention for months and were already locked in to the best draft lottery odds at 14%, along with Detroit and Houston, in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes.
The loss gave Dallas the 10th-worst record and lottery chances of 4.5%, which is part of the reason the NBA opened an investigation when Doncic was pulled early and Irving and four other regulars didn't play at all against Chicago.
The Mavs and Bulls were tied for the 10th-best record going into the game. Dallas gets the pick if it's in the top 10, but otherwise surrenders it to the Knicks from Dallas' 2019 trade for Kristaps Porzingis.
The pick would give Dallas a bit of collateral if Irving decides not to re-sign.
The mercurial Irving said when he was introduced in Dallas after the trade that he didn't want to talk about his future until after the season. When that time came, he still wasn't talking.
The Mavs were in the middle of the playoff race when they created the first pair of All-Star starters in franchise history, but Doncic and Irving were just 5-11 together with both missing multiple games because of injuries.
Dallas won its first two games with Irving but went 7-18 the rest of the way, missing the playoffs for the first time since Doncic’s rookie year in 2018-19 after reaching the West finals last season.
“I know you guys will talk about the record, which is fair and not fair, between the two players of Luka and (Irving),” Kidd said. “But there’s also other participants. So let’s put everybody in that fish bowl, not just those two. He’s excited to work with Luka. He believes that we have a chance to win.”
Doncic has three years remaining before the player option on the $215 million rookie max extension he signed two summers ago. He said he wants to see where the superstar pairing can go.
“I wish we could continue that chemistry, relationship,” said Doncic, who finished second in the scoring race at a career-best 32.4 points per game. “It’s not going to happen in a day, in a week. It’s a building process.”
The Spurs ended a seven-game losing streak against Dallas, leading by as many as 31 points in the first half.
The Mavericks started three players for the first time this season, with the other two having just eight starts between them. Of the 17 players in the game for both teams, 15 scored in double figures.
TEXAS 3 MISSTEP
The Dallas loss to Chicago clinched the first NBA season in which all three Texas teams missed the playoffs. The Mavs were the last of the three to join the league, in 1980-81.
Houston and San Antonio were buried at the bottom of the West standings for months. The Spurs missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season after qualifying the previous 22 years. The Rockets are on a three-year drought.
- Ed Malloy
- Marat Kogut
- CJ Washington