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Kyrie Irving speaks on playing with Luka Doncic, carrying on ‘uncle’ Dr. J’s legacy in Mavs introduction

Kyrie Irving spoke to the media on Monday for his introductory press conference with the Dallas Mavericks. He made his first appearance on Thursday and scored a team-high 24 points after joining the team in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets. Because the Mavericks had three straight road games, Monday night was his debut in Dallas.

The eight-time All-Star sat with general manager Nico Harrison and Markieff Morris, who was also part of the Nets trade. He addressed questions about what he can bring to the team with All-Star Luka Dončić and how he handles criticism.

“It's an honor to be here, grateful to be here, share space with all of you here,” he said to open up his first answer before explaining how he appreciated how he was told by the Mavericks that they wanted him to be himself.

“‘Look forward to the team that we're developing and just take a chance. Take it one day at a time, there's no rush here. We're not putting too much pressure on you. There's no pressure on the team so to say. When we come in every day, we just want you guys to be consistent,'” he shared of the advice he was given. “So that was music to my ears.”

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Kyrie Irving's connection with Mavericks GM Nico Harrison

Irving cited his already established relationship with Harrison as extra incentive to join the Mavericks. The two worked together when Harrison was at Nike. He spent 19 years with the athletic company, ending his time there as vice president of North America basketball operations before joining the Mavericks in June 2021. Irving signed with Nike as a rookie in 2011. The sneaker company dropped him from his contract in December after he endorsed an antisemetic movie and initially refused to apologize.

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“I don't see any risk involved at all. I've known Kyrie for a long time. I know his core. I know the type of person he is,” Harrison said on making the deal to bring Irving to Dallas. “I think anybody who's ever watched him play basketball knows the type of basketball player he is. So I don't see the risk at all. I actually see the risk in not doing it.”

“Touché,” Irving said with a grin.

“I'm appreciative of our long-lasting relationship and knowing my family very well. Now it's just about me going out and proving it to my teammates and doing what I do and control what I can control.”

Kyrie Irving warms up before the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at American Airlines Center.

How Kyrie Irving handles criticism

Something that Irving can't control is how people perceive him. Harrison stood firmly by his decision to bring the point guard to Dallas, but the questions persisted about Irving's controversial comments.

“Oh man, I would love to be well-liked by everybody. Oh man, how the world would be so perfect for me,” Irving said with a sigh and a laugh. “That's just not it. That's just not it for I don't think anyone in this room. I think we have family members that we don't necessarily get along with all the time, friends that we don't necessarily talk to every day. But the genuine love that you have in your heart is the only thing that you can really control.”

Irving admitted that he was “rambunctious” in his 20s and was asking a lot of questions about life and the world around him. He said that stepping into the spotlight as a teenager put a lot of pressure on him at a young age and he's grown to focus on his family and see a bigger purpose than basketball.

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“I have open dialogue with everybody that spends time with me, wants to have a conversation, wants to ask me questions. I just think that if you try to get to know me within this workspace and you expect me to be on all the time and say the right things and do the right things, it's not something you can really expect from somebody. I'm just not a perfect robot that can go around giving all the right answers all the time or trying to be something that someone else wants me to be.

“But I think what I've been able to learn is to just focus on the people around me and the people that really genuinely celebrate me. Everyone else that has things to say about me, what I would say to them is, ‘I wish you nothing but the best and I wish you well and your family well.' But I have a life to live and I have kids to raise, so I don't really have the energy to sit and focus on things I can't control about the way people think about me.”

Kyrie Irving on playing with Luka Dončić

When asked about playing with fellow All-Star Luka Dončić, Irving made it clear that each member of the team is valuable, but said that he is looking forward to having success with a player of Dončić's caliber.

“When you're playing along somebody that has the consistency to score the ball, play make and really challenge the defense to make adjustments like Luka does, then we obviously are a force together to be reckoned with,” he said. “Whether we're being in pick-and-roll, or whether we're making plays for one another off each other, so I think that's the exciting future that I see alongside him.”

Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (2) listens to guard Luka Doncic (77) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

Questions have persisted about if Irving can play off the ball, which he has done with LeBron James and others. Irving pointed out that Dončić might be the one who hasn't had that experience, but that he is going to play his style of ball no matter what.

“I don't know what the misconception is whether or not I can play off the ball, but every single time I step foot out there, I get a chance to really prove it to myself that I can play with anybody and everybody and still be efficient and be myself,” he said.

Kyrie Irving requests to not be asked about his future

Irving joined the Mavericks in his final season of a four-year contract. If Dallas chooses not to give him an extension, he will become a free agent. Irving was asked about what he'd like to see from the franchise in order to be convinced to stay and he requested to not be asked about his future.

“I would love to just have the respect of you guys and everybody the rest of the season of just continuously asking me that because it just puts unwarranted distractions on us and our team,” he said. “I've dealt with it before and it's very emotionally draining to ask questions like, ‘What's the long term? What's the long term? What is it?'”

Even though he doesn't want to have the weight of his future placed on him every press conference, he assures the media that his first impression of Dallas has been positive.

“There's been nothing but a warm embrace, nothing but genuine love and nothing but a familiarity of relationships that I could really look to. In times of questioning or confusion, I can always go to these guys or the ladies in our front office or people that have really made themselves available since I landed in Dallas. So there's just a positive note there.

“… And just taking it one day at a time. That's all I can do in this life and what the future holds is really only going to be dictated on what I do right now and how I prepare for those next steps and that's being the best teammate I can in that locker room, being a great leader out here within the Dallas community, within the NBA and just continuing to be myself and develop. So just putting that to bed and just focusing on what we have ahead as a team.”

Kyrie Irving hopes he can continue in the footsteps of the greats like Dr. J

On a lighter note, Irving was asked about his showmanship, specifically how he knows how to dunk with finesse and not get a foul for hanging on the rim for too long.

“I'm an Irving. You don't know my uncle? Julius?” he laughed, referring to Julius Erving after puzzling the reporters. “You just flip it, E to I.”

“… I swear I think we're family because obviously I can't grip the ball like Doc or do anything like that, but there's some nuances of athleticism and things that wows the crowd as an entertainer and performer that I believe he was doing before me. So I'm grateful to carry on the legacy of a lot of guys that have done otherworldly things with their talent and have wowed people for generations. So I don't take this position for granted at all and just gonna continue to work hard and see where I end up the next couple years and hopefully my game still evolves and you're talking about me the same way.”

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