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Clippers dodge a bullet as Kyrie Irving gets traded to Mavericks

“I didn’t like this move for the Clippers, I didn’t like this move for Clipper fans, I didn’t like this move for Los Angeles. I’m glad it didn’t happen.”

Brooklyn Nets v Los Angeles Clippers
Kyrie Irving has requested a trade from the Nets and the Clippers have reportedly made an offer.
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Despite the Los Angeles Clippers emerging as a trade contender for Kyrie Irving, they might have just been saved by him being dealt to the Dallas Mavericks instead.

I wanted to try and approach this in a way which a guy with the recent track record of Irving doesn’t truly deserve – with complete neutrality.

So let’s start with the purely basketball perspective. Of course, Kyrie is still a top talent in the NBA. Though his time with the Brooklyn Nets served up a whole host of lows, he’s still averaged 27.1 points per game, 5.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals. His shooting splits through that period are a super-efficient 49/40/91.

The Clippers could still use a point guard with that efficiency, particularly as it seems like Tyronn Lue is not prepared to commit wholeheartedly to the idea that Paul George can’t be the sole point guard on the floor down the stretch. The head coach has already put on record this season that he has a bias towards ‘traditional’ number ones, because he was one himself.

Lue, of course, had already won a championship with Irving for the Cleveland Cavaliers and was reported to have liked the idea of working with him again, which only intensified the rumors. If he is still insistent on playing a traditional point guard alongside his two stars in the clutch, then that would have been an upgrade on both Reggie Jackson and John Wall. The former has looked low on enthusiasm this season and can be too nonchalant in his shooting and playmaking efforts, while the latter is increasingly looking like his days are numbered.

2016 NBA Finals - Game Seven
Ty Lue and Kyrie Irving celebrate winning the NBA Championship together with the Cavaliers.
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

In fact, that last point is the perfect segway to take me completely away from my attempts at neutrality. I didn’t like this move for the Clippers, I didn’t like this move for Clipper fans, I didn’t like this move for Los Angeles. I’m glad it didn’t happen.

I say this having publicly supported Irving in the past when he was being hounded by fans in Boston and having previously respected the way he has expressed himself around faith and spirituality. What I absolutely cannot get onboard with are the harmful conspiracies, the promotion of terrible people who are profiting from peddling those conspiracies along with other hate speech and the direct promotion of a film filled with antisemitic hate speech – not to mention the initial lack of accountability and subsequently delayed apology.

In a post-2022 Draft Night interview with local reporters, Lawrence Frank was quoted as saying that adding a player into a locker room is as good as an endorsement of that personality within the team, which is as important as the talent they bring on the floor. That is why, when it comes to Kyrie, the conversation simply could not have solely been about basketball. How he conducts himself off the court is indelibly linked to what he brings on it.

For the sake of arguments, we can get back to what he brings on it. Since he left Cleveland, Irving has played 22 playoff games and while his usage goes up from the regular season, his efficiency falls quite dramatically. He has a true shooting percentage of 54.1 percent through those three years of active postseason basketball, compared to his own 60.2 percent in the regular season since 2016 and even, for example, the 62.4 percent put up by Jackson through his two playoff runs with the Clippers.

That’s without even thinking about what a now alternative future could have held. People will look at Kyrie’s time with the Nets and perhaps feel some level of sympathy with how much turmoil the franchise as a whole has been through. However, one look at his time with the Boston Celtics tells a different story, and one in which he’s actually the common denominator.

The reason he’s so disliked in Massachusetts – though, as previously mentioned, that has gone *way* too far at times – is because he told fans he would re-sign before getting to the offseason and doing the exact opposite. His supporters will point to him being a scapegoat of a franchise that failed him because it wasn’t set up to succeed at that time, but they’ve proven since that their two other top talents are more than good enough to drag them to the top table.

That tendency to say something publicly and then silently change his mind means the Clippers — and now Dallas — would have never been safe from him sitting while under contract, or even walking away from it altogether when his current deal expires in the summer. It’s a rental that could have backfired in a big way and shortened what is already an ever-shrinking window for the Kawhi and PG era to bring home a championship.

If the only way to keep Ty happy is to have a traditional point guard on the floor at all times and go away from the ‘PG the PG’ experiment, by all means go and find an upgrade on what we have. I’m just glad that this particular option is off the table now.