Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I’m not sold on the combination of Kyrie Irving and Luka Dončić.
In today’s SI:AM:
🎊 When Kareem set the NBA scoring record
🦵 The latest on Steph’s knee injury
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Will he be happier in Dallas?
Just days after requesting a trade out of Brooklyn, Kyrie Irving has a new home.
The Nets sent the mercurial star to the Mavericks yesterday in exchange for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, a 2029 first-round pick and multiple second-rounders. Markieff Morris will also head to Dallas as part of the deal.
The trade marks the end of a disappointing era for the Nets. Pairing Irving with Kevin Durant (and later James Harden) was supposed to make Brooklyn the NBA’s next great superteam. If Durant’s left foot had been a hair farther back on his game-tying shot against the Bucks in Game 7 of the 2021 Eastern Conference semis, we’d be having a very different conversation about this team right now. But that was as far as the Nets ever got. That was Durant and Irving’s first season together. (They signed during the same offseason, but KD was sidelined for a year due to a torn Achilles.) Last year they traded Harden and got swept in the first round by the Celtics. Now Durant is the last man standing.
The Mavs needed to do something at the deadline to become a more serious contender in the West, but Rohan Nadkarni isn’t convinced this was the right move:
Is Irving really the player you want to pair with Luka Dončić at this stage of the young star’s career? The on-court fit is less than ideal. Both need the ball to be effective. Irving lessens Dončić’s burden, though the Mavs probably will still be an iso, switch-hunting heavy team. A Luka-Kyrie backcourt will also be an adventure defensively. And on top of that, Dallas is giving up its burliest wing defender in Finney-Smith. I understand the pressure to put another star next to Dončić. But does this really make the Mavericks a contender?
The other question mark is Irving’s contract status. He will be a free agent after this season, and, if the Mavs can’t get him to sign an extension, then they will have given up a ton of value to add a short-term rental to a team that is more than one piece away from true championship contention. And should the Mavs really want to commit to the famously unreliable Irving as a long-term partner alongside a star in Dončić?
The Nets learned how unreliable Irving can be over the past year when he refused to make himself available for half of the team’s games last season by declining to get vaccinated against COVID-19, missed games early this season after promoting a film with antisemitic material and then requested a trade late last week. The pieces Brooklyn got back from Dallas make this a pretty good trade, though. Dinwiddie has proven to be an effective second scoring option playing beside Dončić this season, and Finney-Smith gives them a strong defensive presence on the wing. Plus, they were in need of some draft picks after giving up so many to acquire Harden.
The Irving deal is a reset for the Brooklyn franchise, but there’s one more drastic move the team could still make. If the Nets want to blow it all up and trade Durant, the Suns are reportedly interested in acquiring him, just as they were when he requested a trade over the summer. That would be a bombshell before Thursday’s trade deadline.
The best of Sports Illustrated
- As LeBron James approaches Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career scoring record, Howard Beck looks back at when Kareem passed Wilt Chamberlain in 1984 with little fanfare:
“I really thought it was kind of underplayed, to be honest,” recalls Thomas Bonk, who covered the game for the Los Angeles Times. “I didn’t think it was that big a deal. The league was kind of new to the PR business.”
- Beck believes Jacque Vaughn is the right coach to lead the Nets through this period of uncertainty.
- The Suns reportedly offered to include Chris Paul in their trade offer for Kyrie Irving. Here’s what the Clippers were reportedly offering, and the Lakers’ package.
- Irving could make his Mavericks debut Wednesday.
- Stephen Curry will be out at least through the All-Star Game with a leg injury.
- The Premier League charged Manchester City with violating financial regulations over a period of nine years.
Aaron Rodgers and professional Ben Silverman won the Pebble Beach pro-am.
The top five...
… things I saw yesterday:
5. Peyton Manning’s reaction to his team losing the Pro Bowl.
4. Nic Batum’s tweet about an interaction with a fan.
3. The minor league hockey game that ended in a forfeit because the home team didn’t show up.
2. Lou Lopez Sénéchal’s three-point floater for UConn to beat the first-quarter buzzer against South Carolina. (The Gamecocks won the national title game rematch.)
1. The unbelievable ending of the Portland-Pepperdine men’s basketball game.
Let’s kick off Super Bowl week with a weird bit of NFL trivia that I stumbled upon the other day. Who is the only player in league history with more than 500 pass attempts and more than 650 punts?
- Norm Van Brocklin
- George Blanda
- Danny White
- Tom Tupa
Friday’s SIQ: Which lovable enforcer was unexpectedly named to the NHL All-Star team in 2016, thanks to an online voting campaign?
- George Parros
- John Scott
- Colton Orr
- Tanner Glass
Answer: John Scott. Despite playing in only 11 NHL games before the All-Star break, Scott received more votes than any other player and was named captain of the Pacific Division team. He was named MVP after leading his team to victory in the three-on-three tournament.
The campaign was the work of hockey commentators Jeff Marek and Greg Wyshynski. Marek joked on an episode of their Marek vs. Wyshynski podcast that he’d like to see lumbering 6'8" Scott in the All-Star Game’s new three-on-three format, and the idea caught fire.
As I wrote at the time, the NHL was not happy with Scott suddenly becoming the most popular player in the NHL. The league stopped providing its weekly updates on All-Star voting once Scott took over the No. 1 spot. The NHL and his team, the Coyotes, reportedly asked him to “bow out” of the All-Star Game. When he did not, the Coyotes traded him to the Canadiens, who immediately sent him to their AHL affiliate in Newfoundland. Scott’s wife was nine months pregnant with twins at the time and had to move to the farthest reaches of North America with the couple’s other two children.
The trade was a transparent attempt by the Coyotes and the NHL to prevent Scott from playing in the game—either by having him ruled ineligible (because he had been traded out of the division and assigned to the minors) or getting him to finally relent to the pressure the higher-ups had placed on him. In a 2019 podcast appearance, Scott called the trade “super shady.”
The NHL did not succeed in keeping Scott out of the game, which led to a memorable scene in Nashville when he scored two goals in the Pacific’s 9–6 win over the Central in the first game of the tournament. His team then beat the Atlantic to win the tournament and, despite not being named a finalist for MVP, won the award on write-in votes. He received a new car for winning MVP and $91,000 for being part of the winning team. Not bad for a guy who made $575,000 that year.
It’s incredible that the NHL tried to prevent this from happening. I couldn’t tell you one thing that happened in any other NHL All-Star Game in my lifetime, but I definitely remember Scott’s feel-good story. It won’t happen again, though. The following season, the league tweaked All-Star rules to prevent fringe players from being selected for the game.