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Published Time: 18.06.2024 - 21:04:51 Modified Time: 18.06.2024 - 21:04:51

Irving jilted Boston in free agency in 2019 and has been steadfastly booed by Celtics fans since then. His 3.5 seasons in Brooklyn were filled with mostly self-inflicted drama, to the point that he finally asked for a trade after doing the same to break away from LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Kyrie Irving

"From a spiritual standpoint, I think I enjoyed this journey more than any other season, just because of the redemption arc and being able to learn as much as I did myself and my teammates and the organization and the that I'm around," Irving said. "It's a lot of good here, so it makes coming to work a lot of fun."

But Dallas was a surprise team both times, and couldn't stick around past five games. The next level would be getting this far without being a surprise, perhaps as the favorite to win the title.

"When you have one of the best players in the world," coach Jason Kidd said, "you should be always fighting for a championship."

Such progress might be required to keep Irving and Doncic together beyond 2025-26, or to keep Doncic in Dallas as long as retired star Dirk Nowitzki stayed — a record 21 seasons with the same franchise.

While Irving and Doncic had a full season, the Mavs like to talk having just five months together. That's when trade-deadline additions Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington arrived and helped give Dallas a defensive mindset that became crucial to the deep playoff run.

Last fall, the talk was the full reset for Doncic and Irving. In 3.5 months, the talk will be of Gafford, Washington and budding 7-foot-1 star Dereck Lively II, Dallas' rookie first-round pick, having their first training camp together.

"We did some great moves," said Doncic, who won his first scoring title. "I would say we've been together for five months. We didn't win the finals, but we did have a hell of a season."

If the Mavs don't add a starter in the offseason, the 32-year-old Irving figures to be the only player older than 26 in the lineup. Lively won't be 21 until February.