DALLAS – Dallas is sitting Kyrie Irving and four other regulars against Chicago in a game with draft implications and with the Mavericks facing postseason elimination if they lose.
Fellow All-Star Luka Doncic will play Friday night with the franchise paying tribute to his home country of Slovenia. But coach Jason Kidd said the 24-year-old superstar would only play the first quarter, and suggested his season would be over after that.
The sudden switch from the Mavericks came two days after Doncic and Irving led a rally to a 123-119 victory over Sacramento. The win kept Dallas in the mix for the final spot in the Western Conference play-in tournament a year after the Mavs reached the West finals.
A day after that victory, Oklahoma City beat Utah, meaning the Mavs would have to win their last two while the Thunder would have to lose to Memphis for Dallas to get the 10th seed. The Grizzlies could be locked in to the second seed in the West before the regular-season finale Sunday.
“Things change,” Kidd said. “Understanding as an organization, they made this decision. But we still have to be professionals, go out there and put our best foot forward, who can play.”
Irving is out for right foot injury recovery. The others ruled out are Tim Hardaway Jr. with left ankle soreness, Maxi Kleber for right hamstring injury recovery and Josh Green and Christian Wood for rest.
The Bulls are locked into the 10th seed for the final play-in spot in the East and will be without Zach LaVine for left knee injury management and DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Beverley for rest. Alex Caruso will play despite foot soreness, with coach Billy Donovan saying his minutes would be monitored.
Dallas’ decision to rest five rotation players comes with the Mavs and Bulls tied for the 10th-worst record in the NBA at 38-42.
Dallas gets to keep its first-round pick if it’s in the top 10. If it is 11th or lower, it goes to the New York Knicks as part of Dallas’ trade to acquire Kristaps Porzingis in 2019. The draft lottery next month will determine the final order.
Kidd said he wasn't part of the discussion for a decision that essentially pulls the plug on the season before the Mavs were eliminated. But the coach said he agreed with it.
In a wide-ranging discussion with reporters before the victory over the Kings, owner Mark Cuban suggested the Mavs simply weren't good enough and took responsibility for the personnel decisions that left them with a losing record a year after finishing 52-30 and fourth in the West.
Dallas was solidly in the playoff picture when it made the blockbuster trade with Brooklyn for Irving in February, giving the Mavs two All-Star starters for the first time in franchise history.
The big move didn't provide the spark the club hoped. Irving and Doncic have a 5-11 record together, and the Mavs entered the Chicago game at 9-16 since Irving's debut.
“Understanding this is a situation we’re in, that the organization has made a decision to change,” Kidd said. “So we have to go by that. And the guys that are playing are going to go out and try to play to win. You’ve got to be pros. You can’t cheat the game.”
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