In this league nothing is certain until the signature is on the dotted line, but Kyrie Irving has now shifted to where re-signing with the Celtics next summer is closer to a foregone conclusion.
That’d be bad news for the Knicks, who represent Irving’s hometown team and have been targeting the point guard for their 2019 cap space. Irving announced his “intention” to re-sign with the Celtics to fans on Thursday, and then reiterated it to reporters Friday morning.
“Timing is everything with this and I’m glad I can share it with the Boston fans and everybody there,” Irving said. “It was a great reception and I was happy to get it done with. I just have every intention to sign back. I just want to clear it up with me and (GM Danny Ainge). Me and management have not talked about any numbers so please don’t ask me about it. I don’t want any tampering or anything like that. So July 1 or whenever that day is we’ll talk contract and stuff like that. But I have every intention to sign back with Boston.
“I thought it was a perfect time to let everyone know I have every intention to sign back and now I don’t have to answer any questions like what are you looking for and it was time. I’m glad I can move past it and be with my teammates and we can move forward.”
Irving, who had placed the Knicks on his list of desirable destinations, was noncommittal about his future with the Celtics in June when hyping his movie “Uncle Drew.” But Irving said his return to Boston for the season changed his mind.
In addition to returning to the court following knee surgery, Irving enrolled in Harvard’s Business program and even apologized for claiming the Earth is flat.
A truly changed man.
“I just needed some time. Kind of be back in Boston,” Irving said. “And feel great about different things I wanted to explore in my career. But I think the important thing was just being happy and having an environment where I’m being challenged in a physical level as well as mental and I can get better as a basketball player and as a man and grow here. And I do have a dream of putting my No. 11 in the rafters one day if I’m so blessed to do that. I’ll have to work my tail off to do that. But to throw my name in the Boston Celtic history and tradition is something I’m glad I can do.”
Of course, a year is a long time and anything can happen. Before he demanded a trade from the Cavaliers, Irving told young fans in Cleveland that “I won’t leave, I’m not leaving.”
Then LeBron signed and Irving grew tired of the situation.
But what would it mean for the Knicks if Irving is truly off the 2019 free-agent board? Kevin Durant remains the best free agent and has been linked to New York, with both his agent and father big fans of the franchise. But after Durant the list is slim pickings.
Jimmy Butler is reportedly close to landing in Miami where he’s willing to re-sign. Klay Thompson likely isn’t leaving Golden State. Kevin Love re-signed with the Cavaliers already. Kemba Walker, 28, is the next-level free agent, but the Knicks would then have to seriously consider whether punting their money to 2020 is the best option.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the Knicks have changed their message lately by downplaying its focus on 2019.