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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Blake Schuster

Why the Knicks (!) are secretly to blame for the Mavericks trading for Kyrie Irving

This is the online version of our daily newsletter, The Morning WinSubscribe to get irreverent and incisive sports stories, delivered to your mailbox every morning. Here’s Blake Schuster. 

During all the chaos following the Dallas Mavericks’ blockbuster acquisition of Kyrie Irving, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Knicks.

This isn’t some East Coast or “Old NBA” bias. I can honestly say the Knicks don’t enter my mind too often these days (they’re an OK team—it’s really nothing personal). This was more because of a fascination with domino effects in the NBA and the Knicks really kicked one off here.

Let’s go back to last offseason. New York was found guilty of tampering with Jalen Brunson as it worked to sign him away from Dallas. Sure, everyone saw it coming, but that doesn’t make the outcome any less worthy of discussion. The NBA docked the Knicks a second-round pick in the 2025 draft which is … whatever. The larger issue is how the Mavs haven’t been able to fully replace Brunson’s production since then and how that may have led them to offer up a haul for Irving.

Dallas really believed a championship window was opening up after making it to the Western Conference Finals last season and Brunson’s departure shook that very foundation despite Mark Cuban’s insistence the team would improve this year.

Here’s how he described the loss of Brunson to Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks in August:

“We think we are going to have a better team. And that’s no disrespect to Jalen. Jalen had an amazing role, but adding Christian Wood, having Spencer [Dinwiddie] further away from his injury and more comfortable in their roles. For us to pick up the guys we did and go to the Western Conference finals, it says a lot. JB was obviously a big part, but I think JB’s primary role for us was scoring. And I think we more than compensated for that with Christian.”

So much for that. Especially as Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News reports Wood “has also been a frequently discussed candidate for the Mavericks to shop.”

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the Mavericks would much rather have a roster with Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie and three future picks to build around Luka Doncic. Now those assets are gone in favor of Kyrie and Markieff Morris.

If this were a trade that could be graded solely on its basketball merits, that’d be one thing. But we know it’s not. We know Kyrie’s off-court statements and controversies have very real on-court consequences. And we don’t know if the Mavericks will be able—or willing—to re-sign him after the season.

Is this a move Dallas even considers if Brunson is still in the fold? Probably not. Instead, the Nets get a boatload of assets for a player who essentially quit on the team (that could’ve won the conference!) and reportedly threatened to sit out until he was traded from Brooklyn.

Now there’s a chance the Nets are able to quickly retool and retain Kevin Durant. And that in turn makes it more difficult for the Knicks to compete in the East.

There’s a pretty equal chance The Kyrie Experiment in Dallas completely blows up and sets both the franchise and Luka back a few years. What happens if the Mavs can’t keep Doncic happy and contending?

We know the Mavericks were good enough to come three wins away from their first Finals appearance since 2011 last year. After the Knicks were able to easily pry Brunson away, we just don’t know if that was Dallas’ peak in the Doncic era.

Either way, the dominos have started to fall and it’ll be fascinating to zoom out on the NBA in a few years to see the entire effect of the Knicks’ tampering for Brunson.

Quick hits: Happy Super Bowl week! … What night from the Grammys … and more.

 (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

— The lead up to the Super Bowl begins, so here are some great bets to start looking at on receivers and tight ends, on the running backs, and quarterbacks.

— So many great moments from the 2023 Grammys, and we got a new Ben Affleck meme along with Adele and Dwayne Johnson meeting!

— Steve Cohen was very blunt about his spending as Mets owner.

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