'A step back'? Mavs opt to sit Kyrie Irving and 4 others, miss playoffs

'A step back'? Mavs opt to sit Kyrie Irving and 4 others, miss playoffs

Kyrie Irving

DALLAS -- All-Star guard Kyrie Irving and four key Dallas Mavericks role players sat out Friday night's 115-112 home loss to the Chicago Bulls, a defeat that eliminated the Mavs from play-in contention.

The Mavs announced late Friday morning that Irving (right foot injury recovery), shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (left ankle soreness), small forward Josh Green (rest), and power forward/centers Maxi Kleber (right hamstring injury recovery) and Christian Wood (rest) would all sit out against the Bulls, essentially for precautionary reasons.

Dallas entered the day tied with the Bulls for the 10th-best lottery odds and owes the New York Knicks a top-10-protected pick as the final payment for the Kristaps Porzingis trade.

"We were fighting for our lives, and understanding this is a situation we're in, but the organization has made the decision to change," Mavs coach Jason Kidd said during his pregame media availability. "So, you know, we have to go by that and that's something that happens. So the guys that are playing, we got to go out there and put our best foot forward, and we talked about that this afternoon.

"And the guys that are playing are gonna go out and try to play to win. You gotta be pros. You can't cheat the game."

Despite the changes, the Mavericks built a double-digit lead in the second half before a makeshift unit composed mostly of the team's reserves and role players eventually let that entire lead get away.

"It's not so much waving the white flag," Kidd said after the game. "It's decisions sometimes are hard in this business. We're trying to build a championship team. With this decision, this is maybe a step back. But hopefully it leads to going forward."

Kidd said prior to the game that All-Star guard Luka Doncic, who was listed as probable due to left thigh injury recovery, would play only the first quarter and then be shut down. Doncic was pulled early in the second quarter after logging only 13 minutes. He scored 13 points.

Doncic was not made available to the media after the loss.

On Tuesday, Doncic publicly rejected the idea of sitting out down the stretch as a tanking measure to protect the Mavs' lottery position.

"When there's still a chance, I'm gonna play," Doncic said Tuesday when asked about sitting out down the stretch. "So that's not gonna happen yet."

Asked how Doncic reacted to the organization's plan Wednesday, Kidd said: "I can't speak for him. But I think when you look at, we all said that we want to have the opportunity to find a way to get in. And we were gonna play until told otherwise. And today is the day that we've been told that we're gonna do something different. And so he's gonna participate in the first quarter and then he's done for the season."

Mavs governor Mark Cuban, who paid a $600,000 fine in 2018 for publicly admitting the Mavs were tanking, said Wednesday night that "of course I understand" the thought process from fans that protecting the lottery position is Dallas' smartest strategy down the stretch.

"The guys don't wanna do that," Cuban said. "Players aren't gonna do that. Players don't do that."

Kidd said the decision was made by Cuban and Mavs general manager Nico Harrison. He said he was not involved in the decision-making process.

Does Kidd agree with the decision?

"Those are my bosses," Kidd said, "so yes."


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