Kyrie Irving had plenty to say during his first day with the Dallas Mavericks.
The All-Star guard, who was acquired in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, spoke with reporters after his first practice with the Mavs on Tuesday.
He discussed why he felt disrespected by the Nets, how he'll fit alongside Luka Doncic, his relationships with Kevin Durant and LeBron James, and why he deleted his apology about posting a link to an antisemitic movie in November.
"I delete a lot of things on my Instagram," said Irving, who was suspended eight games by the Nets after posting the link and refusing to apologize. "I've had things that have happened before in my life, probably not as drastic as that moment, which led to a lot of confusion and uncertainty about what I meant and what I stand for. I had to sit up in front of these mics and explain to the world who I am and I know who I am. I delete things all the time and it's no disrespect to anyone in the community. Just living my life."
Irving was then asked if he stands by his apology.
"I stand by who I am and why I apologized," Irving said. "I did it because I care about my family and I have Jewish members of my family who care for me deeply. Did the media know that beforehand before they called me that word antisemitic? No. Did they know anything about my family? No. Everything was assumed. Everything was put out before I had anything to say. I reacted instead of responding emotionally and maturely. I didn't mean to be defensive or go at anybody. So, I stand by my apology and I stand by my people everywhere. All walks of life, all races, all religions."
The trade to the Mavericks ended a tumultuous three-plus seasons in Brooklyn for Irving. After Irving and Kevin Durant signed with the Nets in 2019, the two played in just 74 games together over four seasons. Irving played in just 143 games total for the Nets, missing time due to injury, a refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine amid New York City's vaccination mandate and his suspension. Irving's absences and controversies contributed to the Nets' disappointing finishes, which included just one playoff series victory during his tenure.
Irving, who thanked Nets fans in a tweet after the trade, told reporters on Tuesday he felt "disrespected" while in Brooklyn.
"I just know I want to be places where I’m celebrated and not just tolerated or kind of dealt with in a way that doesn’t make me feel respected,” Irving told reporters. “There were times throughout this process when I was in Brooklyn when I felt very disrespected. My talent, I work extremely hard at what I do, and no one ever talks about my work ethic. Everyone always talks about what I’m doing off the floor. So, I just want to change that narrative, write my own story, and just continue to prepare in the gym.
"Now that I’m in Dallas, just focus on what I can control. I’m always going to be close with those guys in Brooklyn, just like I’m close with guys in Boston, just like I’m close with guys in Cleveland. It is a team, competitive sport, but we care about each other’s families way more off the court, so I know the relationships will extend off. I’m just focused on preparing to win.”
Irving was asked what he felt the Nets did that disrespected him.
“I think that’s another day where I could really go into details about it," Irving said. "I’m not the person to really speak on names and go to someone behind their back and try to leak something to the media. That’s never been me. I’ve been an audience member of watching people say things about me that ultimately just fall off my shoulder.
"I’m really in a place that I’m grateful that I got to grow into over the last year and a half, two years. Spending time away from the basketball court gave me time to really appreciate life in a new way, and I just know that I need healthy boundaries. Especially in this entertainment business, there is a lot of disrespect that goes on with people’s families, with their names, and I’m just not with it. So, it’s nothing personal against any of those guys in that front office, it’s just what I’m willing to accept. I took a chance and luckily and fortunately the Dallas Mavericks picked me up.”
Irving, an eight-time All-Star who is averaging 27.1 points per game this season, is set to make his debut with the Mavericks on Wednesday in Los Angeles against the Clippers. He took the court with his new teammates in Dallas for the first time on Tuesday.
"Super excited," Irving said. "Grateful for the opportunity. Really feel wanted. I know they had to move pieces for me to get here. So, I don't take that for granted. Shoutout to Mr. Cuban, the whole entire front office, the Dallas organization, I've been here for about 48 hours, a little bit more than that and it's been nothing but a warm embrace and genuine love. I'm just taking it one minute at a time, just focus on what I can control, which is how I prepare and just come in every single day and be consistent."
That consistency will depend on how Irving and his new co-star Doncic, two ball-dominant stars, will co-exist.
"I'm not worried about co-existing or finding cohesion," Irving told reporters. "I've played with some of the best of all-time, greatest of all time, I've been on some of the greatest teams, the Olympics, the World Championships...As much as I can alleviate for him, as much as I can lead alongside him, I'm willing to do. But there’s no pressure here, nothing is forced. With me and him, I just want to play basketball and enjoy his talent, enjoy my teammates' talent and work towards a championship."
Irving was also asked about the former stars he once played with. One being James, who made comments and tweets that indicated he wanted Irving on the Lakers.
"As much as the what-ifs I would love to focus on and cherish, what could have been or what should be, I have to shift my focus to what we got going on here," Irving said. "That's what brings me peace, is just taking care of what I can control in here and really embracing my teammates and being one of the leaders on our team alongside the coaching staff and the front office by just exemplifying what greatness looks like."
"Me and Bron have grown as human beings," Irving later added. "He's always going to be my brother and always going to have great things to say about him and his family. But my focus is here. So, unfortunately, the Lakers, they're doing what they're doing and that's it."
Irving is making $36.9 million after opting into the final year of his deal during the offseason. He was unable to reach an extension with Brooklyn last week, leading to his trade request on Friday. Just 48 hours later, the trade to the Mavericks was reported.
That meant he'd be leaving Durant behind in Brooklyn as the two failed to achieve the goals they set when they joined forces.
"But it just didn't work out," Irving said. "We still remain brothers. But it is a business at the end of the day, as we always say. And I gotta look out for my family and ultimately, I want to be at peace every time I come into work rather than things hanging over my head or wondering what people think about me in the building or whether or not a report is going to come out tomorrow that I don't talk to my teammates, which is untrue. I just felt like being in New York City in the media capital of the world, there were so many things that leaked out that I didn't even know where they came from. And I'm answering things that I don’t deserve and ultimately I don't pay attention to that much. So, I'm just grateful that I got to move on and now I'm here."
Barring another trade by Brooklyn, Durant will soon play alongside his new teammates acquired for Irving. That includes former Net Spencer Dinwiddie, who averaged 17.7 points and 5.3 assists for the Mavs this season, and Dorian Finney-Smith, a defensive specialist who averaged 9.1 points and 4.7 rebounds while starting all 40 games for Dallas.
Their introductory press conference on Tuesday was much more light-hearted than Irving's.
"I understand that we may not be the best trade package, but we're the best looking," Dinwiddie told reporters. "And the Nets, they needed some help in that department."