When Kyrie Irving told fans at the TD Garden during the Celtics’ Annual Fans Night that he wanted to stay in Boston, Celtics fans went wild in jubilation:
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 4, 2018
That was in October, when the 2019-19 regular season hadn’t begun and expectations were high on the Celtics after making an improbable run to the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals while playing without Irving and fellow All-Star Gordon Hayward who were then injured. Both were 100% healthy during that night in October and Irving’s statement sounded like the beginning of Boston’s reign in the East after LeBron James’ departure to the Western Conference.
Singing A Different Tune
Barely six months later, Irving was asked the same question again, if he wanted to remain in Boston next season. After a game against the Knicks in New York last February, Irving’s reply to reporters was “Ask me in July”. He said other things like he didn’t owe anybody anything and he’s going to do what’s best for himself and his career. But the bottomline was that Kyrie Irving was now singing a different tune.
At this point, the Celtics struggled to find their rhythm. Before the start of the season, they were the NBA betting favorites to win the LeBron-less Eastern Conference. But with Irving and Hayward healthy, the Celtics couldn’t find the form that made them Eastern Conference Finalists last season. Instead, Milwaukee, Toronto and Indiana were the Top 3 teams in the East. The Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers were left battling for 4th and 5th in the conference, a far cry from the preseason expectations.
The Celtics finished the season as the 5th seed in the East. After sweeping the Indiana Pacers in Round 1, they beat the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of the second round of the playoffs. But that was their last hurrah as the Bucks went on to win the next four games by a total of 65 points and win the series 4-1. With their unexpected exit, Irving’s status with Boston has been on top of the plate again.
Under his existing contract, Irving has a player option for the 2019-20 season. Should he choose to pick it up on July 1, which is the start of the free agency period, he will remain with Boston for one more season. If he chooses not to, he will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and will be free to join any team he picks.
Kyrie’s Rumored Plans
One of the early rumors on Irving was that he and Jimmy Butler, another 2019 free agent, were planning to team up in some NBA city. The two became good friends when they trained and played together for USA Basketball. Initially, it was reported that Butler and Irving were targeting to team up in New York next season. Later, the rumor changed to Kevin Durant and Irving teaming up in a Knicks uniform next season. Durant is also eligible to enter free agency on July 1 and with some reported kinks in Golden State, he is rumored to be on the move.
Then there is also recent talk about Kyrie Irving re-joining former teammate LeBron James in Los Angeles. James left Cleveland last summer to pursue a career in Hollywood. The Lakers missed the playoffs this year but will have significant cap space this summer to sign a maximum free agent. The Lakers were spurned by the Pelicans in their quest for Anthony Davis. Hence, Los Angeles set its sights on Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson and Kemba Walker. But after James picked Irving on his All-Star team, the two rekindled their friendship and the rumor of the two reuniting in Los Angeles next season began to spread.
As far as Boston is concerned, the Celtics are expected to pursue Anthony Davis in a trade when the free agency period starts. Davis demanded to be traded before the 2019 trade deadline but the Pelicans held on to him knowing perhaps that Boston will have the best offer but couldn’t put it on the table yet because of a CBA clause that disallowed them until July 1. Boston has the mix of young talent and draft picks that could entice New Orleans to ship Davis to Boston.
Davis has reportedly agreed to be traded to Boston on the condition that Kyrie Irving stays there. So pursuing AD would be two-way for Danny Ainge. Ainge would get a legit second start in Boston while also getting Irving to commit long-time to staying in Beantown. The problem with this is that Boston isn’t only going to give up several of its key players but Irving staying could mean guys like Rozier leaving. Unless of course, Ainge trades the disgruntled Celtics for Davis, which would be the perfect move.
Everything is Purely Speculation
Right now, Irving’s future with Boston is still uncertain. Maybe we won’t have any hints until July 1 because after all, Kyrie told us to ask him on that date. Irving left Cleveland to be on a team where he was the #1 option. Boston gave him the keys to their car, he couldn’t drive them to the promised land. I don’t know if Boston still has faith in his leadership moving forward. Maybe the Celtics want a new start.
But then maybe last season was just part of Boston’s growing pains. It was Gordon Hayward’s first season back from a serious leg injury. Jayson Tatum had the sophomore jinx and Irving was on and off due to several injuries as well. Maybe after a bitter lesson against the Bucks, they will come back stronger next season, perhaps with Anthony Davis in town.
Then maybe Irving leaves. He was stubborn when he decided to leave Cleveland. Maybe he’s stubborn again to leave after what happened this season. Remember Irving criticized his young teammates during mid-season and asked them to play better. Maybe he realizes, that Boston isn’t the final destination for him. But maybe if Boston gets AD, Irving changes his mind.
These are all maybes that we are talking about. As he said, he will decide on July 1st and he will do what is best for him and his family. To me that’s a question mark and to me, that’s somebody who wants to go elsewhere. I think Kyrie Irving wants out of Boston and I think Boston feels the same way too. But that’s just me. We’ll see what happens on July 1. What do you think?