What Kyrie Irving’s reported interest in LeBron James reunion could mean for Mavs future

Tribune Content Agency

Ever since the Mavericks’ season unceremoniously ended on April 9, and for that matter ever since Dallas acquired Kyrie Irving on Feb. 6, fans have fretted about Irving’s ability to sign elsewhere in free agency this summer.

Far less consideration has been given to the opposite scenario: What if Irving not only remains a Maverick, but helps recruit a fellow star to join forces with him and Luka Doncic and create a super team in Dallas?

The latter possibility emerged Monday like a cannon shot, when two national media reports cited Irving’s desire to reunite with former teammate LeBron James. Except in the scenarios reported Monday, Irving and James would not reunify as Los Angeles Lakers, but as Dallas Mavericks.

Naturally the mere thought of a James-Doncic-Irving celestial combo, remote though the possibility appears to be, sent a jolt of excitement through Mavsland on an otherwise dull June morning.

Citing unidentified sources, The Athletic’s Shams Charania tweeted that Irving has reached out to James to ask if James would consider coming to Dallas. Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes cited unidentified league sources as saying that Irving wants the Mavericks to explore trading for James.

Before we analyze the significant obstacles that would have to be cleared to make Dallas King James’ next domain, here’s the more important takeaway for Mavericks fans to consider in the wake of Monday’s reports:

If accurate, the reports strongly infer that Irving expects to remain a Maverick and thus wants to help enhance the roster, with Dallas coming off a 38-44 finish and missing the postseason.

Indeed, on the day Dallas acquired Irving, a high-ranking member of the organization told The Dallas Morning News that along with envisioning him as a strong fit alongside Doncic, the Mavericks admired Irving’s proven track record of attracting star teammates, Exhibit A being his wooing of Kevin Durant from Golden State to Brooklyn.

“Clearly Kyrie is trying to get his shot off right now,” Charania said during a Monday appearance on FanDuelTV’s Up & Adams, adding that Irving is “putting on his recruiting cap.”

Irving’s recruiting abilities certainly won’t be restricted to James, but, hey, why not first aim for the leading scorer in NBA history? Especially when that player in February told ESPN that he was “disappointed” in the Lakers’ inability to “land such a talented” player as Irving, who had asked Brooklyn to trade him?

Certainly, though, Irving understands that if he signs anything close to the maximum five-year, $272 million contract that he’s eligible to sign with Dallas (the most he can sign elsewhere is four years at $201 million), it makes acquiring James or any other max-contract player next to impossible.

Last August, James signed a two-year, $97 million contract extension that will pay him $46.9 million in 2023-24 and includes a player option for a $50.6 million salary in 2024-25.

With a projected salary cap of $134 million next season, a ledger that would pay James $46.9 million and Doncic $40 million and Irving as much as $47 million would make any accountant queasy.

As Bleacher Report’s Haynes noted, both Irving and James would have to take significant salary cuts to play together in Dallas, and in James’ case he’d have to first take a buyout. Does anyone envision either one of those scenarios happening? Of course not.

The Mavericks’ other path to getting James would be to trade for him and, among other prohibitive facts, his contract has a 15% trade kicker. Even if James tried to force the Lakers’ hand, it’s unlikely they’d want any combination of Dallas’ best assets that don’t include Doncic.

Tim Hardaway Jr., this month’s No. 10 draft pick, the Mavericks’ first-rounder in 2029, Josh Green, Jaden Hardy, Maxi Kleber? Imagine how any package of that sort would go over with Lakers fans.

Still, “highly unlikely” is not “impossible,” which is how anyone would have characterized LeBron-to-Dallas pre-Doncic.

Besides James’ publicly stated admiration of Doncic, Irving and Mavericks coach Jason Kidd, James also is close to Mavericks assistant Jared Dudley.

Then there’s the under-the-radar Dallas draw: Mavericks general counsel and chief ethics officer Sekou Lewis was a high school teammate of James’ at Akron Ohio’s St. Vincent-St. Mary.

Would all of the above be enough for James to title-hunt in Dallas and move from Los Angeles as son Bronny embarks on his likely one-and-done freshman season at USC?

Again, highly unlikely, but not impossible.

More likely, the smoke surrounding Monday’s two reports is Irving’s way of signaling to the Lakers that he fully intends to take Dallas’ lucrative contract offer — which means he isn’t taking a discount either to go to the Lakers in free agency, or in a less-lucrative sign and trade deal.

What Mavericks fans should hope Monday meant, above all, is that Irving plans to be a Maverick and has indeed donned his recruiting cap.