Irving: “Some real talks” helped Mavs win two streaks

MEMPHIS — At one point, when the Dallas Mavericks lost nine of 12 games from Feb. 11 to March 13, they did something Most teams do this when the sky seems to be falling.

“We’ve had some real conversations, adult conversations, mature conversations that I can honestly say in my 12 or 11 years on any team, sometimes we haven’t had those direct conversations,” said guard Kyrie Irving. “These are not comparisons.

“We just had one real group talk that we needed to get some things out and now we’re just living with the wins and losses of being together. These behind-the-scenes conversations are really important to our organization, so it happened.”

The end results of those talks saw the Mavs (36-35) take a two-game winning streak and plenty of confidence into Monday night’s game in Memphis against the Grizzlies.

Irving would not reveal intimate details of those conversations. But last Friday, the emotional 111-110 buzzer win over the KyrieLos Angeles Lakers, he played 39 minutes — coach Jason Kidd said he wants to keep his minutes under 40 — and handled offense with the precision of a surgeon working at the operating table.

“Thirty-nine (minutes)? I didn’t plan that at all,” Irving said. “We have the ‘W’ – that’s really key for the rest of the season at the moment. Whatever is necessary.

“I let the guys know before the game, ‘Let’s rock.’ You know what that means. I just put my body on the line and live with the results.”

The game against the Lakers was Irving’s first after missing three while suffering from right foot pain. Given that the Lakers are considered one of the NBA’s gold-standard franchises — the Boston Celtics and Lakers have the most championships with 17 each — Irving was keen to be prepared to play one of the league’s marquee franchises.

“I don’t think there’s any additional science or anything like that,” Irving said of preparing his foot to go step-by-step with the Lakers. “It comes down to being intentional with my sales force. Of course, I can sit at home or on the pitch and say, “I wish my foot felt as good as it doesirving all seasons.’ But it’s just not the reality.

“I just take my representatives on stage and I’m efficient with the opportunities I have. It’s not like it’s my first time playing with an injury or anything. So just keep pushing and let yourself continue to rehabilitate and recover and do whatever I can to put myself in the best position.

Irving is the player who gave Maxi Kleber a crisp pass by just two seconds in the game against the Lakers and the Mavs, who were two points behind. Kleber released the ball with just 0.2 seconds remaining, and his three-point buzzer-beater was the deciding difference in the Mavs’ dramatic one-point win.

The shot was particularly emotional for Kleber as he is still trying to get back into shape after missing 35 games after undergoing surgery to repair his torn right hamstring. Add that in addition to the two botched games in the last 1.8 seconds of last Wednesday’s regular game against San Antonio and its game-winner against the Lakers, Kleber was badly needed both personally and emotionally.

“It definitely adds a unique amount of emotion,” Irving said of Kleber. “I don’t think it’s just an emotion. I just think he really wants to play well. He missed part of the season.

“I think he can feel how hard we’re trying at the end of the season. I just want to keep trusting him. I’m still getting to know him as a person and as a Hooper out there. As long as I can look at him and communicate at eye level, I feel like it Maxwe’ll be able to be in a good place. (Friday), he played some big games offensively and defensively.

With two Lakers ringing him and time running out, Irving knew he had to find a friendly face to pass the ball. He found Kleber hanging around on the left wing all by himself.

“I really made that pass on purpose because I put it right in his shot pocket,” Irving said. “We also work on that as a team when we play towards each other in training, so it definitely helped (Friday) and I’m glad we were successful.”

Friday’s game was the kind of success the Mavs hope will see them continue to advance into their final 11 regular-season games and beyond. Part of that is the synergy they’ve slowly developed since the blockbuster Feb. 6 trade that brought Irving from the Brooklyn Nets to the Mavs.

“Kai is a strong believer in energy and connection,” Kidd said. “Maxi took it hard in San Antonio that he could have just thrown it in and we didn’t have to go into overtime. He felt like he had let his teammates down.

“His teammates picked him up and then gave him confidence again (Friday) to come to him with the game winner. That just goes to show how special these guys are in this dressing room. Kai says it best: Redemption is a beautiful thing.”

Since Feb. 11, the Mavs have lost five games by four points or fewer. These include home games against Minnesota (124-121), the Lakers (111-108 after a 27-point lead), Indiana (124-122) and Phoenix (130-126).Kyrie

The Mavs also lost in Memphis on March 11 (112-108) and lost a 133-128 contest in overtime in Sacramento on February 11 that started the downtrend, the “some real talks, grown-up talks, more mature” part was talks,” to which Irving alluded.

After last Monday’s 104-88 loss at home to Memphis, the Mavs won a 137-128 overtime game in San Antonio before rallying for this epic showstopper against the Lakers.

“I think if you look at our last — I don’t know how many games, maybe 10 or 12 — we’ve been in almost every game aside from probably just a blowout or two,” Irving said. “At the end of the track we really have to build that confidence.

“Even though I’ve played in the fourth quarter this season, I don’t want us to just rely on that. I’ll show up but at the same time I want my teammates to get aggressive too and they make my job a lot easier.”

Certainly Kleber’s aggression and game-winning shot at the buzzer against the Lakers made Irving’s job that much easier. It also made for a beautiful storybook ending for the Mavs.

Twitter: @DwainPrice


Leave a Comment