The reason the Brooklyn Nets ended up trading Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks may have more to do with Nets owner Joe Tsai than the offer from the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers reportedly offered both of their tradable first-round picks (2027, 2029) to the Nets — and possibly promising youngsters Austin Reaves and Max Christie — but Tsai did not want Irving to get his wish and reunite with LeBron James.
“The Nets also succeeded, as one source close to the process put it, in meeting one of the presumed objectives held by team owner Joe Tsai by sending Irving somewhere other than the Lakers — his preferred destination,” wrote NBA reporter Marc Stein in his Substack newsletter.
(Stein is as well connected to the Mavericks as anybody, and recently spent years in the New York market writing for the New York Times.)
On the one hand, this is immensely vindictive stuff from Tsai. On the other, it’s entirely reasonable. Tsai is worth over $8 billion thanks to co-founding Chinese tech conglomerate Alibaba (among other enterprises) and was understandably fed up after Irving derailed a promising Nets season (for the second time) by demanding a trade. Tsai stuck with and paid tens of millions to Kyrie through numerous controversies over four years, none of which ended in playoff success. For all of his basketball talent, Irving was an undeniable disappointment and chaos agent in Brooklyn — the antithesis of a company man.
Kyrie's timeline since signing with Nets:
In 2019-20, he played 20 games.
In 20-21, he got hurt in the playoffs.
In 21-22, he cratered the season by refusing to get vaxxed, forcing BK to trade Harden for Simmons.
In 22-23, he demands a trade.
Nets have paid him $136 million. pic.twitter.com/ToxpQAF4Ny
— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) February 3, 2023
Furthermore, the Nets, with age-34 Kevin Durant under contract for three seasons after 2022-23, would like to remain competitive. The Lakers package — whatever it turned out to be — didn’t offer much short-term value. The Mavs, by contrast, supplied the Nets with two starting-caliber players (Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie), as well as a 2029 first and two second rounders.
Condolences to Kyrie Irving, who will have to settle for playing alongside 23-year-old MVP candidate Luka Doncic for a franchise that famously treats its players exceedingly well and is committed to being a perennial contender.