Luka and Kyrie may now sit on the same bench, but they have yet to get on the same page on the court. Courtesy

Now that the NFL season has concluded in earnest, our best option for sports entertainment this past Sunday came in the form of the NBA All-Star Game. If you managed to fight through the eye-searing Day-Glo unis of Team Giannis and could actually force yourself to watch any of the loose approximation of NBA basketball transpiring on the court, you were able to see something you haven’t since all the way back in 2009. No, sadly, I’m not referring to a comment praising your choice of My Chemical Romance as your background music on your MySpace profile. I mean an NBA All-Star Game with two — count ’em, two — Dallas Mavericks. To give you an idea of just how long ago that really was, one of the two was Dirk Nowitzki (duh). The other is now the team’s current head coach, Jason Kidd.

This year’s duo is the young Slovenian Superman, Luka Dončić (duh), as well as recently acquired Kyrie “Flat Earth” Irving. “Flat Earth-ving”? We’ll workshop it as we will casually ignore the fact that the latter was technically selected for his performance while playing for a different team, because, hey, when games resume this week coming out of the break, the two guys will both be wearing Dallas uniforms.

Though new to the team, Irving really needs no introduction to anyone with even a passing interest in the NBA. He’s universally accepted as an all-world talent, but the point guard’s many cringeworthy antics away from the game tend to make more headlines than his on-court heroics. If there was an All-Star designation for negative press, Irving would be the top vote-earner every year by a mile. This, even in a league that has James Harden.


Irving is the closest thing the NBA has to Aaron Rodgers. Both men no doubt represent the top-most tier of their respective sports, but the Venn diagram of the two has plenty of other, less celebratory overlaps. There’s the general air of condescension that comes with both of them obviously believing they are inherently smarter than anyone else in the room. There’s also the mutual flirtation with — to downright ringing endorsements of — wild conspiracy theories, the stubborn and inexplicable distrust of vaccinations, and the growing cloud of locker room tensions left in each man’s wake.

It’s been two weeks since the blockbuster trade in which Dallas ironically sent two of their best character/locker room guys, guard Spencer Dinwiddie and wing Dorian Finney-Smith, to the Nets in exchange for the controversial point guard. In that time, the Mavericks have played five games, not really a large enough sample size to ascertain how he and the boy king he was brought in to appease will play together. The short amount of time has been further complicated by both Dončić and Irving missing games due to injury. So, as of this writing, two games are all the pair have played together.

And those two games, like this season’s Mavs in general, have been a mixed bag. Both players had great stat lines in each contest, averaging 30 points per game apiece, but despite leading the team to scoring more than 120 points in each game, both tilts were losses. There’s also an overly deferential vibe the two are playing with, as if neither is really comfortable with how they are supposed to play with the other. Indecision on who should take a potential game-tying final second shot against the Timberwolves resulted in an embarrassing pass around that let time expire before a shot could be put up by either of them.

This type of thing should resolve given time, but time isn’t necessarily on the team’s side. Dallas currently sits two games above .500 at 31-29, good for sixth in the Western Conference. That’s dangerously close to play-in status for the playoffs. The most troubling thing is that the recent run of high-scoring losses seems to illustrate that it’s no doubt a good thing the Mavs made a ballsy, all-in move before the deadline to try to improve a middling, going-nowhere team, but what they did doesn’t really seem to address the team’s biggest weakness: defense. You could argue they’ve compounded the problem by sending one of their better (let’s not say “good”) defensive players away. At this rate, the Mavs are going to have to score 120 every night just to be competitive.

They should get a little help soon, maybe as early as this week, with the return of forward Maxi Kleber. He’s not Rudy Gobert, but he’s by far the best defender left on the team. It’s also convenient that coming out of the All-Star break sees a short stretch of games against some of the league’s bottom dwellers, such as the Spurs, Lakers, and Pacers. Hopefully over the next few potential gimme games, Dallas can find their footing with their new-look dual-threat backcourt. They’ll need it because the stretch afterward looks daunting with games against the 76ers, Suns, Pelicans, and a pair against the Grizzlies.