The Dallas Mavericks are in real danger of missing out on the postseason entirely due to their ugly free fall. Dallas is 3-7 over its last 10 games and has lost three straight contests.
The midseason addition of Kyrie Irving seemingly made the team worse, and things are not looking good for Luka Doncic and company.
Hall of Fame point guard Tim Hardaway Sr. recently spoke about the team’s troubles and claimed that Doncic and Irving aren’t leaders. According to Hardaway, the team misses Jalen Brunson’s leadership.
“They’re missing a leader out there,” Hardaway said. “Luka is not a leader. Kyrie is not a leader. Jalen Brunson was a leader. A leader shows by example, by playing defense. When he says something, he does it also, and that’s what a leader is. And like I said, those two guys are not leaders. They’re complementary, dominant great basketball players. Great scorers.”
With Brunson on the roster last season, the Mavericks went 52-30 and made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals, where they lost in five games to the Golden State Warriors.
Brunson then left the team in free agency to sign with the New York Knicks on a massive four-year, $104 million deal. The Mavericks reportedly could’ve signed the talented guard to a less expensive extension prior to the 2021-22 campaign.
“Prior to the 2021-22 season, he was eligible for a four-year, $55.5 million extension,” Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes wrote last month. “It was an offer Brunson’s camp would have accepted if the Mavericks made it, sources tell B/R. In January 2022, his representatives tried to initiate dialogue on getting a deal done, but the Mavericks resisted.
“Brunson began cementing himself as the second-best player on the team behind Luka Dončić. And after the February trade deadline, the team contacted Brunson about agreeing to the same four-year, $55.5 million extension Dorian Finney-Smith had just signed. At that point, it was clear that the guard’s value in free agency would be worth exponentially more if he tested the market.”
The 26-year-old explained what happened.
“There were two times that I thought we had offers on the table before the season, and then around, I think December or January, they looked the other way,” Brunson said, according to Haynes. “They had every right in the world to do so. I don’t blame them for making any business decisions. That’s on them.”
Dallas is surely kicking itself right now for not offering that deal to Brunson earlier. It also might be regretting trading for Irving. Losing players like Spencer Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith really depleted Dallas’ depth, and that has caught up to the team.
When Irving plays, the Mavericks are just 7-12. Dallas had sole possession of fourth place in the Western Conference as late as Feb. 10, but it might not even make it to the play-in tournament now.
Irving is expected to test the free agent market this summer, so changes might be coming fairly soon.
Meanwhile, Brunson and the Knicks are preparing for their first-round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, with Brunson also viewed as a possible contender for this season’s Most Improved Player award.