DALLAS — If Kyrie Irving showing up courtside to watch the Nuggets sweep the Lakers means he’ll wear purple-and-gold next season, then, by that logic, we must assume Vin Diesel will make another “Fast and Furious” sequel with Adam Sandler, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Edward Norton and Andy Garcia, and Alex Rodriguez will suit up for the Dodgers or Angels. They all made Crypto.com Arena on Monday, too. Don’t forget Trae Young, who’s frequented more Lakers games lately than Kyrie.
For that matter, Jack Nicholson has been a courtside regular for years, and I hear he’s got terrible handles.
Chances are Kyrie was front and center because he had insider info that it might be his buddy LeBron James’ last game. Never hurts to be seen when your contract’s up for grabs, either.
Either way, I wouldn’t worry too much about the Mavs losing Kyrie to the Lakers, and don’t put much stock into the odds that LeBron flips the script by coming to Dallas.
Unless, you know, Mark Cuban promises him he’ll tank again so he can draft Bronny next year.
More on that later, but, first, the Kyrie updates: Speculation about him rejoining LeBron heated up after the Lakers fell flat in the Western Conference finals. Or, more specifically, D’Angelo Russell did. The latter played a huge part in the Lakers’ resurgence since his acquisition at the trade deadline, then stunk it up against Denver, averaging just 6.3 points on 32.3% shooting, including 13.3% on 3s.
The Lakers, who occasionally seemed stuck in the mud during the season, simply couldn’t afford a lapse by any regular in the playoffs. No matter what you might think of Kyrie, he’s an upgrade over Russell. Because of that difference, you can pretty much ignore speculation that the Mavs might consider a sign-and-trade with the Lakers for Russell.
I mean, why would you want a guy who’s not as good at point guard and doesn’t address any of your other needs?
Another line of thought Tuesday held that Kyrie showed up as part of an effort to persuade the King not to abdicate. If Kyrie plays for the Lakers, that is.
First of all, let’s clear this up once and for all: LeBron’s comments after the loss to the Nuggets about his uncertain future were no doubt sincere but shouldn’t be taken seriously. Superstars in decline always must consider the toll of another season, especially in the aftermath of a disappointing loss. Once LeBron’s head clears, he’ll return to the Lakers. The locals have finally taken to him, as they should. Even at 38, he’s still too good to quit now. Not when he’s so close to realizing a long-held dream of playing next to his son.
Until Bronny’s eligible for the draft, dad can make son’s home games for USC next season without firing up the helicopter.
Could Cuban persuade LeBron to come to Dallas next summer, when James has an out in his contract? Odds would seem better then, with the Mavs’ guaranteed contracts reduced to a half-dozen and more room available under the cap.
The question is, considering how the playoffs have worked out, do the Mavs really want to keep chasing the elusive three-superstar model?
David Moore asked the question on our SportsDay Insider podcast this week. Look at the teams left. The Lakers got swept by a team with a legit MVP candidate, Nikola Jokic; Jamal Murray, a Devin Booker starter kit; and a nice supporting cast. Over in the East, Jimmy Butler has hoisted the Heat on his shoulders while taking a commanding lead over the starlit Celtics.
Remember all the talk about what Kevin Durant meant to the Suns’ odds?
The Mavs stumbled onto the formula last season when they rode Luka Doncic; a nice second option in Jalen Brunson; and a blue-collar defense to the conference finals. Brunson mattered more than the Mavs calculated, but, just because it didn’t work without him this spring doesn’t mean the old formula was wrong.
So what do the Mavs do now? Frankly, I’m down with the ESPN insiders our Callie Caplan surveyed the other day who said the Mavs should keep that 10th pick instead of packaging it for a bigger star. By all accounts, this draft is deep in just what the Mavs need: 3-and-D types who could make an immediate impact.
Also helps to have a young, cheap supporting cast when you’ve committed close to $100 million a year to your backcourt.
As it is, the Mavs only have three players – Josh Green, Jaden Hardy and Luka, by way of Atlanta – acquired through the draft. True, they don’t have time to develop kids while Luka burns up his prime. But sooner or later you have to heed trends.
Given how the Lakers’ season was transformed by the addition of role players at the deadline, here’s betting they’ll bring back as much of the current roster as possible. Which means Kyrie was just providing moral support to an old pal Monday. Grabbing a little camera time, too. Works for A-Rod.