C’s Still Interested in Keeping Irving
CHICAGO — Kyrie Irving is going to get paid. He’s going to get a max contract from someone, and the Celtics would still like to be the team that signs those checks. Let’s put that right up front.
But, man, is it getting strange out here on the Kyrie beat.
Wading through the talk from NBA sources all through the season on Irving’s future (and even his present) has been a regular task, and the cacophony has gotten only louder here at the league’s annual draft combine.
The most interesting bit of information from several sources that we’ve been able to consolidate and confirm is that some teams thought to have interest in Irving as a free agent are now a great deal more wary. Based on the way things played out with the Celtics this season and Irving’s role both off the court all year and on it in the playoff loss to Milwaukee, certain clubs are concerned about putting too many eggs in his basket right away.
Two teams for certain are telling people they will only go after him if they land another marquee free agent and that player says he wants Irving. In each of these cases, the initial target is different.
What’s interesting to some is that Irving is so potentially available this summer. When teams were trying to get into the race for him two years ago, they were informed by his side that he would definitely not re-sign with them.
“We were told that the team he wanted to go to was getting ready to trade for him,” said one general manager. “And that team was Boston. So the Celtics were where he wanted to go. He got what he wanted. Now here we are two years later. Crazy.”
And where we’ve been all season has been fairly wild, too, in regards to Irving rumors. As we’ve noted here several times, even his pronouncement last October that he planned to be back wasn’t taken by the Celtics as a binding pledge. The belief was always that his final call would be based on how the Celts’ year went. And even on this there is now uncertainty about the forecast around the club.
Will Kyrie take the disappointing end to heart and want to return to lead the repair of what was broken this season? Will he want to finish the job he so boldly started?
Or will he leave a task in progress to look for an allegedly greener pasture as he did when he asked out of Cleveland two years ago, this time before he gets the championship he did with the Cavaliers?
Danny Ainge has quite understandably taken a break and not spoken to the media since suffering a mild heart attack in Milwaukee April 30, but the last time he did chat he said he’d been having conversations all year with Irving and that he felt encouraged by those discussions.
Meanwhile, the chorus here at the draft combine continues to sing about Irving’s departure from the Celtics, though when some of the more involved sources are pressed on the matter, they refuse to bet their domiciles on the outcome.
The Celtics do continue to hold out hope that Irving will clear his head, realize the possibilities in Boston with a reworked roster that may even have Anthony Davis and choose to stay and fulfill the line from the Nike commercial about getting his number retired there — a line that, by the way, he wrote himself. It would be an epic journey of realization for a guy who considers himself a deep thinker.
But there is room to wonder whether Irving will ever be truly happy. Some who have been with him at other stops have told the Herald this is an ongoing concern, that it’s hard to know how he will be from day to day. And while his Celtic teammates generally had good relationships with him, there was acknowledgement that traversing his emotional spectrum was an issue.
As Terry Rozier told NBC Sports Boston during the year, “Ky’s our leader and when he’s in a great mood and he’s feeling good, we’re hard to beat and it’s contagious. It rubs off on everybody else. Sometimes when he’s not like that, it can get everybody uptight.”
And the way things went for the Celtics has caused some of Irving’s expected pursuers to, if not get uptight, then to at least pause for a moment. The talk has been fast and often borderline furious. One Knick source said three months ago that people above him in the organization were convinced the club was getting both Irving and Kevin Durant. A prominent agent shook his head at that and said the ongoing dilemma was that Kyrie wanted Brooklyn and Durant wanted the Knicks. Another league source said the Irving/Brooklyn talk was just a smokescreen. But a Warrior source said he knew for sure that Irving had spoken to Durant about the possibility of teaming up.
The Celtics remain hopeful.
“We’ll have more conversations with him and his representatives in the coming weeks,” assistant general manager Mike Zarren said. “We had a quick exit interview with everyone on the team, and the day after you lose a tough playoff series is not the time to have those conversations. There’s always one goal in Boston, and it’s banner 18 and that’s what we’re after, and it’s going to be a very busy summer. But we haven’t had any of those conversations with him or his people yet. I know he went on vacation, and as he comes back and we talk with him, we’ll see where things go.”