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Kyrie Irving shines in Mavs debut, is 'glad' Kevin Durant is on brink of being dealt

The newly acquired All-Star started out strong in his first Mavs game, but also had thoughts on his former teammate's move from Brooklyn.

Kyrie Irving notches a game-high 24 points in 37 minutes to help the Mavs earn a big road win over the Clippers.

LOS ANGELES — Kyrie Irving processed his debut with the Dallas Mavericks with a hour-long postgame workout. Irving experienced what he called a “long 96 hours” that included little sleep and lots of packing after the Brooklyn Nets dealt him earlier this week to Dallas.

So Irving needed to decompress. Shortly after his workout, though, Irving soaked in another important development. Irving learned the Brooklyn Nets had reportedly traded former teammate Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns.

“I’m just glad he got out of there,” Irving said.  “I’m just praying for his happiness and praying for his well-being. We’ve had a lot of conversations throughout the year of what our future was going to look like. There was still a level of uncertainty. But we just cared about seeing each other be at places where we can thrive. Whether that can be together or whether that can be apart, there has never been one moment where I felt like he’s been angry at me for the decisions I’ve made or I’ve been angry at him. We’ve just tried to understand each other a lot and grow as human beings and grow as brothers.”

After leading Dallas to a win in his debut, it is apparent that Kyrie Irving makes the Mavericks a more dangerous team.

Therefore, Irving maintained that he “loves the competition now that we can be in the same conference.” While Durant will play on the fifth-place Suns (30-26) with Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, Irving just joined the fourth-place Mavericks (30-26) with Luka Doncic.

But with Doncic missing his third consecutive game with a right heel contusion, Irving spent his Mavericks debut establishing chemistry with his other teammates. He helped Dallas to a 110-104 win over the LA Clippers on Wednesday with 24 points and five assists in 37 minutes, putting forth the performance less than 24 hours after completing his first Mavericks practice.

“That’s how talented he is. He makes things look easy,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “He works on his craft. He’s a pro. He’s up for any challenge.”

The first challenge? Despite his credentials as an eight-time All-Star, Irving said he felt “natural nerves” both before and during the game. The second challenge? Irving learned how to play without Doncic, whom Kidd said may return when the Mavericks visit the Sacramento Kings on Friday (10 ET, NBA League Pass) and Saturday (10 ET, NBA League Pass).

Until then, Irving and the Mavericks’ coaching staff encouraged everyone to play “natural basketball.” Irving also told his teammates, “don’t force the ball to me.” Irving backed up those words with actions, drawing praise from Kidd for playing off the ball and setting screens.

Some of Irving’s teammates said they felt the same way after he told them during Tuesday’s practice and Wednesday’s shootaround “to have fun.” The rest of the Mavericks starting lineup also scored in double figures, including Tim Hardaway Jr. (19 points), Reggie Bullock (18), Josh Green (14) and Dwight Powell (10).

“It just gives us that confidence,” Hardaway Jr. said. “It felt like he’s been here for a while.”

Irving has history with some of his current teammates from his AAU days (Bullock, Hardaway Jr., Christian Wood) and with the Nets (Theo Pinson) and he said he completed different “sparring sessions” with various NBA players — including his current teammates — in offseason workouts. That relative familiarity helped Dallas cement a 19-point lead in the first quarter as well as withstand the Clippers’ third-quarter comeback.

“You can see he is at peace with his basketball game,” Kidd said. “He’s going to play his game. He played that tonight with his teammates.”

Doncic seemed to like what he saw, exchanging high fives with Irving anytime he went to the sidelines. With Doncic arriving here on Wednesday, however, the two have not had substantial conversations just yet beyond a few text messages and brief in-person pleasantries.

“I got to get to know him first,” Irving said. “I don’t want to force anything on him or do anything that is out of my norm.”

Irving said he followed the same approach when he played with other star players, including Durant and LeBron James. Like many NBA fans around the world, Irving was watching as James set the all-time scoring record Tuesday.

“I enjoy seeing him celebrate himself in those moments where a lot of hard work that doesn’t get talked about or seen by others is on full display. I got a chance to play three special years with him. So, it’s a celebration between me and my family to him,” Irving said. “It was pretty easy to tell what he was going after when I was playing with him. That’s when I felt we were at our best — when he was aggressive like that. I’m glad he can put some of the haters to rest saying he’s not one of the greatest scorers or the greatest scorer of all time. The stats prove it.”

The stats also prove why the Mavericks became impressed with Irving’s debut.

“He’s not just an iso player. He tries to play the game the right way by moving and setting screens for his teammates,” Kidd said. “The beauty of Kai is he is all about winning. We’re very lucky to have him.”

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Mark Medina is a senior writer/analyst for You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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