Kyrie Irving claims no hard feelings as Mavericks battle Nets

The Brooklyn Nets already finished their season series with the Dallas Mavericks by the time Kyrie Irving was traded.

On Friday, the Nets face Irving for the first time since last season’s trade when they open a four-game road trip by visiting Dallas.

Irving’s tenure in Brooklyn began in 2019 when he signed in free agency. He teamed up with Kevin Durant and briefly James Harden in 2020-21 and parts of the first half of the following season. The Nets reached Game 7 of the 2021 Eastern Conference semifinals but were swept in 2022 after Harden was traded to Philadelphia.

In three-plus seasons in Brooklyn, Irving’s availability was often in doubt due to injuries and other controversies, including a suspension for an antisemitic tweet exactly one year ago Friday. By the week before the trade deadline, Irving sought a trade and he was dealt to Dallas in a deal that included Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith shortly before Durant was sent to the Phoenix Suns.

After playing 143 games with the Nets, Irving averaged 27 points in 20 games with Dallas last year, but the Mavericks finished 11th in the West.

Irving told reporters Thursday that he has no bitterness toward the Nets.

“I was never on bad terms with the organization. I just think there was a lot of chaos and noise as usual from the media,” Irving said. “I’m not going to blame you guys or anything. But again, nobody really knew what was going on behind the scenes. And I’m sure that people have their sources they go to (for) what was going on and what really happened.

“But for me, it was the best decision of my career. Just to be able to ask for a trade. I knew I needed peace of mind. It was rough all the way around.”

Irving began his first full season in Dallas by supplementing Luka Doncic’s triple-double (33 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) with 22 points and six assists in a 126-119 win at San Antonio on Wednesday.

Dallas gave up 43 points and trailed by seven after the opening quarter but saw its defense improve as the game went on. The Mavericks allowed 51 points in the second half and ended the game with a 11-2 run.

“We really have taken a lot of time this preseason to work on late-game execution,” coach Jason Kidd said. “I thought offensively and defensively we executed during the last three minutes by getting stops, and on offense being able to play through Luka and Ky.”

The Nets are hoping they can make enough plays down the stretch after taking a 114-113 loss in their home opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers,

The Nets blew a six-point lead in the final 84 seconds, allowing a go-ahead 3-pointer to Donovan Mitchell with 12.1 seconds remaining.

Cam Thomas scored 36 points in a reserve role but missed a potential game-winning 3 on Brooklyn’s final possession. Mikal Bridges added 11 of his 20 in the fourth but the Nets could not get the ball to him on their final possession.

“We got to know what’s next,” Bridges said. “You got to know what to do second action or if they’re top-locking everything and back-cutting the big, we got to flow,” Bridges said. “We got to know what we’re doing. It’s the first game so we just learn from it and get ready for the next one.”

Besides improving on late-game playmaking, the Nets are hoping to see more from Ben Simmons after he enjoyed a healthy preseason. While Simmons finished with 10 rebounds and nine assists, he also was held to four points.

Dallas is 6-1 in the past seven meetings and the past five matchups have been decided by four points or less. Doncic scored 36 points in a 96-94 home win on Nov. 7, 2022 after totaling 41, 14 assists and 11 rebounds in an 129-125 overtime win at Brooklyn exactly one year ago Friday.