Irving, 31, an eight-time All-Star, is widely considered to be one of the most skilled guards to ever play the game. He has career averages of 23.4 points and 5.7 assists, including 27.1 points and 5.5 assists per game last season for the Brooklyn Nets and Mavericks.
However, Irving’s career has also featured acrimonious exits from multiple franchises.
He requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers a year after playing a starring role in the 2016 championship run. He left the Boston Celtics after two seasons, the second of which was overshadowed by the widespread belief that he intended to join Kevin Durant as a package deal in free agency — which proved to be accurate when they both signed with Brooklyn. His stint with the Nets featured several controversies and only one playoff series victory before Brooklyn granted his trade request in February after extension negotiations fizzled.
The Mavericks traded starters Dorian Finney-Smith and Spencer Dinwiddie, an unprotected 2029 first-round pick and two second-round selections to acquire Irving, providing Luka Doncic the co-star that Dallas management believed the Mavs needed to contend. But Dallas struggled with its star duo, going only 5-11 when Doncic and Irving played together and failing to qualify for the postseason.
Nevertheless, Mavs governor Mark Cuban and general manager Nico Harrison declared that re-signing Irving was the franchise’s top offseason priority.
“I think Luka and Kai work together,” Harrison said during his exit interview with the media in April.
“I think when we have that talented of a player — that talented of two players — I think they work together. I really think it’s the players around them … kind of knowing their role with having those two guys out on the floor at the same time. I think that’s the thing that we need to work on.”
Kyrie Irving to return to Mavericks on 3-year, $126M deal