The end of the Dallas Mavericks season marks the beginning of some franchise-changing questions

Tim McMahonESPN staff writer10 minutes to read

Luca was pulled by the Mavs early in the second quarter

The Mavericks pull Luka Doncic in the second quarter after draining a basket to give them a 31-26 lead.

dallas – again, the The Dallas Mavericks changed plans during the bizarre final week of what Luka Doncic called a “very disappointing season”.

Just days after announcing that he would play as long as the Mavs had even the slightest postseason hopes, the franchise announced that Doncic would sit out after playing the first quarter in Friday night’s home game against the Chicago Bulls, joining co-star Kyrie Irving. And four other healthy players are on the bench.

Doncic had scored 11 points in the first quarter, laughing with fellow European and opponent Nikola Vucevic on several occasions, neither of whom had a game Both franchises seriously preferred to lose despite the fact that a loss would eliminate the Mavs from contention for play.

But Doncic returned to the American Airlines Center court to open the second quarter. After going through the motions on defensive possession, Doncic posted on the right block, made a looping motion and headed to the basket, faking the pump before putting the ball in his 719th bucket of the season.

Seconds later, Doncic made an intentional foul and walked out of the game, and his season was over, barring another surprising shift in franchise strategy.

Doncic was intended to be showered with a standing ovation by the sell-out crowd on the “I feel Slovenia” night as he exited the stadium. This did not happen. Instead, there was a little confused applause.

It was an awkwardly appropriate unofficial end to a season in which nothing unfolded as envisioned for the Mavericks, who took less than two months to turn around from hype about a blockbuster trade — a lucrative move now fraught with Irving’s pending free agent status, among other factors. Other – blatant touchdown in the final week of the regular season.

The Mavs broke even with the Bulls in the lottery standings with the loss, and stood alone with their top 10 prospects with one game remaining in the regular season. This is a very important distinction for Dallas, which owes the New York Knicks the selection of top 10 protege as the final installment of the Kristaps Porzingis trade.

“It’s not just about waving the white flag,” said coach Jason Kidd after the Bulls’ 115-112 loss, attributing the call to pull the plug to Mavs Governor Mark Cuban and General Manager Nico Harrison.

“Sometimes the decisions are tough on the field, and you have to make tough decisions. We’re trying to build a championship team, and sometimes you have to take a step back.

“Understanding with this decision, maybe this is a step back, but hopefully it leads to moving forward.”

There is a strong sense of urgency within the organization to speed up the process before Doncic loses faith in the Mavs’ ability to build a competitor around him. He’s wrapping up the first season of a five-year, $215 million Super Max contract with a player option for the final season.

Team sources have acknowledged to ESPN that there are concerns that Doncic, who has publicly and privately expressed deep frustration this season, might consider asking for a trade as soon as the summer of 2024 if Dallas doesn’t make much progress by then.

“He would like to be here all the time,” Cuban said earlier this week when asked about Doncic’s long-term optimism. “But we have to earn it.”


Kyrie Irving, left, Luka Doncic and the Mavericks have lost eight of their last 10 games to fall out of contention.Kevin C Cox/Getty Images

Cuban smiled broadly As he stands in the aisle of Crypto.com Arena outside the visitors locker room on the night of February 8th. Dallas had just defeated the Los Angeles Clippers in Irving’s debut with his new team, and the Mavericks were the talk of the NBA, at least until news of Kevin Durant’s trade to the Phoenix Suns broke shortly after.

Cuban, who has avoided the media spotlight much more since Harrison replaced Donnie Nelson as Mavs general manager, has been basking in the glory of making such a big impression for the time being. The win bumped Dallas into fourth place in the Western standings, and the Mavs thought they had upward potential.

Dallas had been desperately searching for a co-star to pair with Doncic since the star’s rookie season, when he took his first big swing in the Porcingis deal. Irving, an eight-time All-Star with an NBA Finals Game 7 winning shot on his resume, definitely fits the profile.

But trading for Irving — and giving up two starters (Dorian Feeney Smith and Spencer Dinwiddie) plus an unprotected 2029 first-round pick — was a big gamble. It was understood prior to the completion of the deal with the Brooklyn Nets that there would not be any discussions about a contract extension.

“We got these bird rights,” Cuban said before laughing and realizing he said the same thing about Doncic’s ex-boyfriend Jalen Bronson last summer after he starred during Dallas’ surprise run to the West Finals.

“I know what you’re going to ask!” Cuban said. “But I think it’s a different set of circumstances.”

The circumstances that led to Bronson’s departure to the New York Knicks in free agency are a sensitive topic in the Mavs organization. They’re also subject to some contention, as Cuban made it clear on Wednesday to publicly deny a claim by Bronson’s father, Rick, that the Mavs told them in early January 2022 that the guard would sign him to $56 million for four years. An extension was eligible if it was put on the table at that time.

Dallas did not put the deal on the table until after the trade deadline, when Vinnie Smith accepted a similar offer. By then, it was clear that Bronson would drive a lot more as an unrestricted free agent. He ended up getting a four-year, $104 million deal from the Knicks, who hired his father as an assistant coach, marking the third time Rick Bronson has worked with Tom Thibodeau.

These bird rights ended up being irrelevant. The Cubans now claim they didn’t stand a chance to stop Bronson from joining his father and Knicks president Leon Rose, who is his godfather and former agent, in New York.

“We didn’t know what the show was,” Cuban said Wednesday. “They never gave us a number. Knowing the numbers now, I would have paid it in a heartbeat, but he wouldn’t have come anyway. There’s no possible way it was about the money.”

Mark Cuban vents frustration amid the Mavericks’ struggles

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban shares his frustrations with the way the season ended.

Cuban’s comments came a day after Doncic, after announcing he would not be suspended unless play-by hopes were fully extinguished, bemoaned how much the Mavs’ chemistry had fallen this season and admitted the team missed Bronson badly.

“A lot,” Doncic said, shaking his head and gnashing his teeth with a pained smile. “I mean, great guy, great player for sure.”

Doncic had grown impatient with the Mavs’ mediocrity early in the season, when he was playing at MVP-caliber while carrying a historically heavy workload. For the first time in his career, Doncic enthusiastically engaged in personnel discussions with the front office, with sources telling ESPN he pushed for a major promotion despite the Mavs’ limited business assets.

The Mavs pounced after Irving applied for a trade in February after contract negotiations with Brooklyn faltered, which was reluctant to guarantee a maximum long-term contract to a player who missed more games than he played during his tenure at the Nets.

Kidd and Doncic made it clear that they wanted to seal the deal. Harrison and Cuban have made it happen.

“I don’t see any danger at all,” Harrison said days later. “I actually see the danger in me no did that.”

But Irving didn’t prove to be a difference maker for Dallas despite averaging 27.0 points and 6.0 assists in 20 games for the Mavs. Dallas won only eight of those and lost five of the six Irving missed after joining the team.

“Just understand, we’re getting better,” Kidd said after the March 13 loss to North America. The Memphis Grizzlies, who missed Doncic and Irving through injury, knocked Dallas down for a game under .500. “It’s just a matter of, can we be healthy in time to do an extended run? And if we don’t, it’s just the season. Nobody dies.”

The Mavs are getting healthy, but they still can’t win. Doncic and Irving made up one of the most dynamic offensive duos in the league, but the Mavs couldn’t consistently outperform opponents due to their awful defense and poor rebounding.

The Mavs went 5-11 when Doncic and Irving were both in the lineup, a winning percentage of . 313 that ranks as the worst by a pair of All-Star teammates since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77, according to ESPN Stats & Research. the information.

“I’m being traded to a new work environment, and that’s just a lot of novelty,” Irving said after losing March 29 in Philadelphia, part of a seven-in-eight game. “I try to introduce myself to everyone, and find out, you know, who are the guys going into the team to trust off the field? Who are our coaching staff as people? Senior management, who are the people? What do they expect of me?…

“What will our future look like? I think now, again, exactly where we are in the season, and where the other teams are already, it kind of looks like a block…”.

The Mavs never fought to get out of it. Cuban also made it clear that he hopes Irving will be a part of the future, saying that re-signing the All-Star guard will be the franchise’s top priority this summer despite the disappointing results after the trade.

“If I were a bettor, I think I’d say he’d be back,” Kidd said Friday night. “Why do I say he won’t?”

Can Mavs be bid on?

“I don’t know,” Cuban said Wednesday, two nights before Irving donned street clothes and sat next to him in the stadium’s baseline seats next to the Mavs’ bench. “I think there is always a very high price tag, depending on that.”


home crowd The Mavericks were booed on March 25, when the Charlotte Hornets’ shortstop, heading for the Lottery, built an 18-point lead midway through the third quarter. After the Mavs’ comeback attempt failed, Kidd wondered why the boos didn’t come out sooner.

The Mavs later proved they had not hit rock bottom yet, losing to the Hornets again after 36 hours as Dallas continued to lose its grip on control of postseason destiny. But this was a new low.

That night, Doncic admitted that he had never been more frustrated during his five-year NBA career, citing the Mavs’ struggles and unspecified problems in his private life.

“I think you can see him on the field with me,” said Doncic. “Sometimes it just doesn’t feel like me. I’m just there. I used to be really having fun, smiling on the court, but it was very frustrating for a lot of reasons, not just basketball.”

He was wearing a black T-shirt with white letters that read “ALL I NEED IS SUVO NESO AND RAKIJA.” It’s a Serbian motto that loosely translates to, “All I need is dry meat and local brandy.”

Doncic will have the chance to get plenty of rest and relaxation, much sooner than expected, after the Mavs dropped to 11th in the West and confirmed their season will end Easter Sunday.

Showered and changed into sweats at halftime on Friday, Doncic watched from the bench as his teammates blew a 13-point Bulls lead in the final two quarters. Seeming relieved and relieved that the Maf’s fate was sealed, he covered his mouth and laughed before the final possession of the game, when Dallas two-way pair McKinley Wright IV and AJ Lawson attempted three potential three-pointers, nil. Iron is drawn from it.

With the Mavs’ disappointing season essentially over, Doncic looked relieved. A Mavs member who knows Doncic well nodded when this remark was shared with him and said, “Good eyes.”

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