LOS ANGELES — Kyrie Irving landed here Tuesday morning, eager to practice with his new Mavericks team for the first time and find “peace” after his Friday trade request from the Brooklyn Nets scrambled his and the NBA’s worlds over the last few days.
But several times during his post-practice interview, his first in Mavericks blue, Irving reflected on the past.
He explained his decision to abruptly request a trade as a result of “disrespect” he felt from the Nets’ organization over his four-year tenure.
He blamed anonymous reports and leaks to reporters as fuel for the drama that overshadowed his championship hopes after teaming up with co-star Kevin Durant to sign as free agents in 2019 with the franchise closest to his West Orange, New Jersey hometown.
He lamented what he perceived as dishonesty and a lack of transparency from Brooklyn’s leadership.
Before Irving debuts as a Maverick on Wednesday night against the Clippers, he couldn’t avoid recounting past obstacles.
“I’m going to use this opportunity to just talk about the business that we’re in,” Irving said in his first comment about requesting a trade out of Brooklyn since the news surfaced Friday. “As a player, it’s very emotional because you build life-long relationships, and you want to hold onto them and it’s a brotherhood, it’s a sisterhood, and we all love each other in unconditional ways and want to see each other do well.
“The reporting and the journalism that was going to come out on why I left — I knew that was going to be speculation. But for me personally, sitting in this seat today, I just know I want to be places where I’m celebrated and not just tolerated or just kind of dealt with in a way that doesn’t make me feel respected. There were times throughout this process when I was in Brooklyn where I felt very disrespected and my talent — I work extremely hard at what I do. No one ever talks about my work ethic, though.
“Everyone talks about what I’m doing off the floor, so I just wanted to change that narrative, write my own story and just continue preparing in the gym and now that I’m in Dallas, just focus on what I control.”
What all does that narrative include?
Irving endured tumultuous instances and ends to his tenures in Cleveland (2011-2017), Boston (2017-19) and especially Brooklyn (2019-2023).
With the Nets, he played 143 of a potential 278 games.
A shoulder injury and surgery marred his debut season and his ankle injury hampered the Nets’ playoff run the next.
After Irving declined to take the COVID-19 vaccine to comply with New York City’s local ordinances to play home games, Irving appeared in just 29 regular-season games last season before his former Celtics squad swept the Nets in the first round.
After the first eight games this season, Irving served an eight-game suspension without pay in November for promoting a film filled with antisemitism and conspiracy theories and failing to say he held no antisemitic beliefs in subsequent news conferences.
He apologized to the Jewish community in an Instagram post Nov. 3, but confirmed Tuesday he recently deleted it.
However, Irving said the culture and distrust around the Nets contributed to his decision to ask out.
“I think that’s another day where I could really go into detail about it,” Irving said. “I’m not the person to really speak on names and go to someone behind their back and try to leak stuff to the media. That’s never been me. Now I’ve been an audience member, watching people say things about me that ultimately just fall off my shoulder. I’m really in a place that I’m grateful that I got to grow into over the last year and a half, two years.
“Spending time away from the basketball court gave me time to really appreciate life in a new way, and I just know I need healthy boundaries, especially in this entertainment business. There’s a lot of disrespect that goes on with people’s families, with their names, and I’m just not worth it, so it’s nothing personal against any of those guys, against the front office. It’s just what I’m willing to accept, and I took a chance. Luckily and fortunately the Dallas Mavericks picked me up, so it’s just all what I can control.”
Irving wished he “would’ve gotten to know the people that were behind the organization” in Brooklyn before he signed with the team in 2019 free agency because I went in there just a kid with a dream on my mind with KD,” Irving said.
Irving’s relationships throughout the Mavericks’ organization, he hopes, will foster better communication and trust.
He has known Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison for years through their Nike connection and overlapped with a couple of the Mavericks’ other central executives in Brooklyn.
He grew up admiring coach Jason Kidd’s Hall of Fame playing career and made a point to attend his induction ceremony with their shared trainer, Robin Pound.
He played with reserve forward Theo Pinson for a season with the Nets, and the two talked on the phone hours after news of the trade broke.
That gave Irving confidence he could return to enjoying the sport and “keep it that way” in Dallas.
”I cheer for them,” Irving said of the Nets, “but when things start to change and you’re not given transparency and honesty from people in the front office or people around you — I don’t know what person feels comfortable or confident in that type of environment.
“And again, I don’t want to go into too many details because it’s water under the bridge now. I wish them well. I left them in fourth place. I did what I was supposed to do, took care of my teammates, was incredibly selfless in my approach to leading, and I just want to do all the right things for myself — not to appease anybody that had something negative to say about me or judge me.”
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