The Dallas Mavericks' decision to bring in Kyrie Irving around last season's trade deadline and then re-sign him this past offseason raised a lot of eyebrows. Many folks questioned whether he would fit seamlessly with superstar Luka Doncic.
While the Mavs finished last season with a 9-18 record when both Doncic and Irving played, there was much more optimism about the partnership coming into the 2023-24 campaign. Being able to work for a full offseason together was just one of the reasons there was a belief they would be better this season.
So far, the duo has silenced haters, as Dallas has gone 14-10 whenever Doncic and Irving share the court in this campaign. Still, there are some folks who think the Mavs tandem is bound to fail.
NBA legend drops painfully wrong take about Mavericks' Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving
Among those who have expressed pessimism about Dallas's chances is Shaquille O'Neal. The Hall of Famer shared before the Mavs' Tuesday game against the Brooklyn Nets that Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving are identical players, which is why they can't make it work.
Interestingly, O'Neal mentioned the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen and LeBron James-Dwyane Wade duos as examples of how superstars can come together and find success. Sacrifices from the parts of Pippen and Wade were necessary, of course. The thing is, Irving has shown no intention of taking over the team from the Slovenian phenom, knowing full well that the Mavs can only go as far as where Doncic takes them.
Furthermore, Irving has proven that he has no problem taking the backseat to a better teammate, such as when he played behind James on the Cleveland Cavaliers and sacrificed touches during his brief time with Kevin Durant and James Harden on the Brooklyn Nets.
Doncic has also thrived when paired with another elite floor general. Remember the 2021-22 campaign when Dallas made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2011? In the 2022 playoffs, the four-time All-NBA First Team selection and Jalen Brunson combined to score 53.3 points per game.
Perhaps O'Neal should have waited for the Mavs' matchup against Brooklyn to conclude before making his assertion, as the contest saw Irving and Doncic put up 36 and 35 points, respectively, to help Dallas defeat the 31-year-old star's former employer.
Just last month, they proved they are a top duo when they combined for 69 points to defeat one of the top West contenders, the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Evidently, the Luka-Kyrie tandem has the potential to lead the Mavs to even greater heights. As long as the organization puts the right pieces around them, it can compete against the best of the league.
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