LOS ANGELES (AP)Kyrie Irving started in his debut with the Dallas Mavericks against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
The eight-time All-Star was traded to the Mavs on Sunday from the Brooklyn Nets.
Irving was a hit with fans, who cheered when he took the court for pre-game warmups. Several young boys shouted his first name over and over. They squealed when he acknowledged them. Adults held up camera phones to capture Irving in his blue T-shirt and sweatpants.
Wearing red headphones, Irving put up shots on the Crypto.com Arena court a couple hours before tipoff. He will be limited to 34 to 36 minutes, coach Jason Kidd said.
”We’ll see how this goes tonight,” Kidd said. ”It’s a work in progress.”
Irving joins JaVale McGee and Markieff Morris as the veterans on the team. The Mavs have 11 players with six years or less of experience on the roster.
”Leadership is something that we’ve talked about,” Kidd said. ”I know he’s new but he’s a vet and these guys all look up to him, so his voice is important and they trust him.”
Irving won’t be playing alongside Mavs superstar Luka Doncic, at least to start. Doncic missed his third straight game Wednesday night because of a right heel contusion. However, he joined the team in Los Angeles and it’s under discussion whether he will play Friday or Saturday when the Mavs are at Sacramento for back-to-back games.
Kidd compared the backcourt of Doncic and Irving to when Irving and LeBron James won a championship together in Cleveland.
”Luka and Kyrie, it’s dangerous,” Kidd said. ”They can score the ball, their IQs for basketball is extremely high, they understand what it takes to win and they’re about winning.”
Irving went from the fifth-place Nets in the East to the sixth-place Mavericks, who had a 29-26 record in the West going into Wednesday night.
Irving hasn’t played in a week. He scored 20 points in Brooklyn’s loss at Boston on Feb. 1 and soon after asked for a trade. The Nets quickly unloaded him, ending a drama-filled tenure that began in 2019.
The last time Irving faced the Clippers he was with the Nets on Feb. 21, 2021. He scored 28 points and had eight assists in a 112-108 victory.
”Much like Doncic, he’s going to have the ball in his hands a lot, we anticipate,” Clippers assistant Brian Shaw said. ”We’re going to have to pay great attention to him and try to keep him under control.”
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